That's the way Cherry Hill was in its heyday. It audaciously spread its wings from west to east with stores, homes, dining spots and inimitable attractions. It emerged with a swiftness and confidence that said: "Look at me!" And people did more than look. They indulged.
The newly named Cherry Hill celebrated its early years and even weathered its middle years with style and panache. But now, it's well past middle age and the question must be posed: Has the town lost its luster? Is there nothing left that makes it unique, appealing or even distinctive. Take a look around you:
- The town's iconic landmarks are mostly all gone. In their place are strip malls, dreary big box stores and cookie cutter multi-family housing units.
- Mega gas station/convenience store combos abound, often abutting residential neighborhoods and crowding out open space.
- Grafitti is no longer uncommon, now popping up with surprising frequency and appearing on transit shelters, shuttered buildings and at other locations.
- Mature trees are marked for destruction with an apparent abandon that makes you wonder what the streetscape will be like once they are gone.
- A vague sense of baroness is beginning to creep in amidst ill-kept or boarded up houses and abandoned storefronts.
- Urban style, one-party machine rule (increasingly characterized by nepotism) now threatens to cement its hold on the town government, blocking out any chance for meaningful democracy.
- The once heralded school system seems beset by chaos with intense, daily controversies over security, budgetary woes, curriculum and even lunch menus.
- Changes and delays in formerly reliable trash and recycling collection have confused and bewildered residents as the town wrangles with its trash contractor.
When you step back and look at it all, it makes you wonder: where are we headed? Can we somehow regain control of our own town and begin to move forward as a mature community with a reasonable sense of balance and harmony? Or, are we destined to be a "place that used to be" -- a place one simply passes by? We'd better get our act together soon, as it appears that time is running out.