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Mayfield city planner holds open house to hear residents’ ideas on rebuilding after tornado

Citizens of the Graves County community met with Mayfield's new city planner about the future of the area more than eight months after the December tornado outbreak. Some of the attendees included local high school students.
Lily Burris
Citizens of the Graves County community met with Mayfield's new city planner about the future of the area more than eight months after the December tornado outbreak. Some of the attendees included local high school students.

Mayfield residents gathered in the local Chamber of Commerce Friday to discuss the future of the Graves County community as it continues to recover more than eight months after the December tornado outbreak.

Local leaders are trying to get people involved in the future of their town, and part of the process included an open house with urban planner Mark Arnold. Arnold is a landscape architect and urban planner with Bell Engineering in Lexington. He’s helping the city with their planning process as they navigate recovery.

“We want to keep doing these kinds of events, these kinds of open sessions,” Arnold said. “It's like a workshop, it's really open to the whole community.”

Arnold, who also spoke at a recent Mayfield Rebuilds meeting, said normally when something happens in a community a planning group forms pretty quickly, but events like this allow for more voices to be a part of the process.

“That plan is important because as folks come into the community, and they see open land, and it is something they may want to consider developing on, that roadmap or that vision shows them where this whole piece is going,” Arnold said.

The overall rebuilding process for the area is expected to take years.

Some local high school students came to the open house to provide input on the rebuilding effort in their hometown.

Graves County High School senior Stephen Rogers was invited to the event by one of his school’s guidance counselors. The 17-year-old plans to study civil engineering in college and he recognizes watching Mayfield get rebuilt is an opportunity for him to learn a lot about the field.

One of the things he’s been thinking about is spaces for kids in the community.

“On a Saturday night, when I'm driving through town, I just see a bunch of kids huddled around Sonic, so you can never get in there,” Rogers said. “I was thinking, ‘Well, maybe we need some more space to just have kids spread out and be themselves.’”

His suggestions for these spaces were covered areas in area parks or enclosed spaces like coffee shops. Something that Rogers said might bring him back to Mayfield after college is a place to connect with people.

One thing he pointed out was some of the streets in the city might better serve the community as a one-way or two-way street instead of what they currently are.

“Some areas are not safe to drive at night when two cars are coming next to each other on a road,” Rogers. “I'm focused on both, I guess, entertaining the kids second and then safety first.”

He hopes to see a focus on safety, kids and greenery in the rebuilding process.

Mayfield Rebuilds, one of the groups in the area helping guide the community’s recovery process, helped coordinate the event. Jill Celaya, the committee chair, said having the students from the high school attend the event was “fabulous.”

“It just gives you a completely different perspective about what we're trying to do,” Celaya said. “This is not for me, or people that are my generation, this is going to be for those kids, the ones that are growing up now.”

Celaya said one question she thought was perfect to ask the students was what would bring them back to Mayfield after college.

“I want the young people to tell me what they want to see, what will draw them back to the community in 15 years after they've gone to college,” Arnold said. “We had that conversation today with them: ‘After you've gone to college, what's going to bring you back to this community? What are the things you’re looking for?’”

Overall, she hoped this event would help bring some buy-in from the community and make sure Mayfield’s plan for the future is for the entire town.

“We do want to address all the needs, what makes Mayfield special, what will make Mayfield be able to have people come here and want to live here,” Celaya said.

Mayfield Rebuilds is working very closely with Arnold and the other city planners to work through this process. Celaya described it as a step-by-step process where people have to “dream the dreams,” the committee has to collect those dreams and ideas and then those have to go to the urban planners to be incorporated into the plan.

While there’s no current timeline, Celaya said they are trying to make things happen as fast as they can.

“We all just need to understand Mayfield wasn't built in eight months, and it's not going to be rebuilt in eight months,” Celaya said. “We just have to try our best to do it as well as we can, as quickly as we can, but without making some big mistakes that we can't come back from.”

Lily Burris is a tornado recovery reporter for WKMS, Murray State's NPR Station. Her nine month reporting project is supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
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