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TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 2006
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EDITORIAL

Alleys are interesting for many wrong reasons

Someone once asked the late playwright Oscar Wilde about the attraction of taking pictures in alleys.

"The only things worth doing are those the world is surprised at," he said.

In most cases, that observation is not a compliment. Alleys are the dust swept under the family rug.

Some are essential, like those in commercial or congested urban areas where they are alternate vehicle routes out of heavy traffic.

Created in horse-and-buggy days, alleys are often narrow and cluttered. Most of all, they generally are unkempt.

That was the thrust of retired city employee Larry Hughes' criticism about the weeds growing in the city's alleys.

In a PSA photographic journal in April 2004, Hugh C. Browning observed that the people who keep their front lawns neat never give much thought to their alleys.

Apparently City Hall doesn't give alleys high priority either, judging from the weeds and vines at a spot Mr. Hughes pointed to recently.

Decatur is not alone in shabby-looking alleys, however, it's a mindset that some cities are changing with astonishing results. When homeowners accept that about the only utilitarian use for their alley is for the sanitation truck, some cities are making changes.

Some transform them into playgrounds, bike trails, walking paths and greenways.

High grass and weeds growing in alleys fail to upset most people who don't have one behind their home. Neither are they bothered about their eclectic appearance.

But alleys are part of who we are collectively, thus we should all be concerned about their appearance.

Would people be surprised at your alley?

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