‘Gift’ an Iron Horse around downtown’s neck

Sometimes it pays to look a gift horse in the mouth, even
– or especially – when it’s an iron horse.
Sometimes it pays to look a gift horse in the mouth, even – or especially – when it’s an iron horse.

Ron Diridon’s “gift” to a “lucky” Santa Clara County city – a train museum – may be less than the history-filled tourist draw it seemed to be at first blush.

Skeptics are saying the so-called museum may actually be a way for Diridon to find a home for the 3,000 tons of rusting train relics that Santa Clara County wants him to remove from its fairgrounds.

Now it’s true that Gilroy’s downtown is not in ideal condition – a point we’ve made time and time again on this opinion page. But adding six million pounds of train junk and a fence won’t improve downtown’s appeal – quite the opposite.

So, while we like to look on the bright side of any proposal when we can, we think Councilman Roland Velasco’s skepticism is wise.

A beautiful, well-designed train museum would be an asset to downtown Gilroy. A chain link fence surrounding piles of nearly scrap metal would not.

So we urge Gilroy leaders to take a go-slow approach to the train museum proposal. Significant city time and resources should only be invested under these conditions:

• Detailed architectural plans have been submitted and approved;

• The needed land has been donated by Union Pacific Railroad;

• The downtown specific plan task force gives its blessing to the project;

• A timetable that includes both carrots and sticks for keeping on schedule is agreed upon by all involved parties;

• And most importantly, complete project funding is in place.

We have bemoaned the lack of a vision for downtown Gilroy, the lack of investment, the lack of visual appeal, the lack of reason to head downtown. Done right, Diridon’s train museum proposal has the potential to be a step toward improving all of those situations. But done poorly, it has the potential to make every one of those negatives much worse.