Pensacola, Florida
Sunday December 17th 2017

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The Dirt Roads of the Tanyard

By Duwayne Escobedo

Elouise Rollins gave up asking the city to pave Clubbs Street more than 10 years ago. The 85-year-old is resigned to the dirt road that existed during World War II when her parents first moved their family into the house at 110 S. Clubbs St.

“One time I questioned it, and the city said it was privately owned,” the retired nurse said. “I don’t own no street.”

Just five blocks from Pensacola City Hall, Rollins isn’t the only resident in the Tanyard neighborhood living on a dirt road.

Neighbors and local businesses on Fort, Innerarity and Hilary Streets have never enjoyed the convenience of a modern, smooth black top with curbs, sidewalks and drainage either. That’s right. Never.

In an urban neighborhood, paved roads have almost become a constitutional right to the average taxpayer.

All the streets are marked, including Fort Street that covers one block from Reus to DeVilliers. It’s within 40 steps of the main entrance to the city’s seven-story headquarters. The new Union Public House restaurant sits at the corner of the grassy, swampy, road that’s ready made for mud bogging.

Gloria Horning’s house sits at the other end of the block. A longtime community activist and University of West Florida professor, she bought her home at 310 S. DeVilliers Street, which was built in 1918,  in September.

Because there is no parking on the street, she often must pull up on the concrete driveway of the Mardi Gras business next door. Despite putting pine straw bales along the side of her home to keep it dry and protected, Horning still finds odd things washed up under her house, such as a black buoy. The other side yard of her small light purple shotgun house is also under water.

“It’s just another day in paradise, I guess,” Horning said, chuckling. “It’s very wet. It’s just ridiculous. I can’t get anybody out to even put gravel down.”

Louise Hill bought her home as an investment and moved to Pensacola from Venice, Fla. Little did the retired medical clinic office manager know that Innerarity Street, where she and her neighbor have their garages, was graveled. Plus, rusted metal grates at the entrance from Coyle Street pose a flat tire hazard with a sharp edge jutting up. Not only that, the road often floods, and the ECUA pump station has a pipe that drains onto the road.

“I thought it would be a good investment,” Hill said. “But maybe not. I don’t have any bright outlook on it.”

Hilary Street has one house that sits on the corner of Coyle Street. There are another four undeveloped properties along Hilary. The dirt road runs parallel to the parking lot behind Ever’man Cooperative Grocery & Cafe.

The four blocks of unpaved roads in the shadow of City Hall, sadly, come as no surprise to one of Pensacola’s oldest neighborhoods. Longtime residents feel neglected, despite paying their property taxes.

The area is roughly bounded to the north by Garden Street, south by Main Street, to the east by Reus Street and to the west by the Pensacola city limits along Bayou Chico.

Despite embarking this month on a $13 million plan to repair and repave about 1,800 city blocks in a three-year period, Tanyard residents can only hope they receive some of that work on these roads.

Inweekly contacted city spokesman Vernon Stewart by work phone, cell phone and email for an explanation for the dirt roads. Stewart acknowledged the inquiry by email but failed to comment.

Pensacola City Councilwoman Sherri Myers conducted an hour-long tour on foot of the Tanyard with an Inweekly reporter. She not only pointed out unpaved roads but also cracked, pothole filled, bumpy paved roads. Myers also commented on many sidewalks strangled by grass or simply missing, sidewalk cuts for handicapped that fail to meet the law of the land, and a huge lack of curbs.

Myers predicted Tanyard will receive city improvements in five years when it will “not be a black community.”

“As this place gets gentrified, I promise you these issues will be addressed,” Myers said. “I wonder if the Mayor (Ashton Hayward) ever gets out of his bubble and comes over here. These are 1917 conditions. I want the people who have lived in the Tanyard all these years to have the benefit of it.”

Rollins looks down Clubbs Street and sees after her block ends there is a ribbon of blacktop for the next three blocks to Main Street. City workers finally put gravel down in 2016, which has done little to stop flooding.

Rollins said, “I doubt the city will do anything about it.”

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Paving Tanyard?
One of the oldest neighborhoods in western downtown Pensacola still includes dirt roads. They are:
Clubbs Street – Runs between Romana and Intendencia
Fort Street – Runs between Reus and DeVilliers
Innerarity Street – Runs between DeVilliers and Coyle
Hilary Street – Runs between Coyle and A