Harassed College Students Sigh With Relief at Front Street Remodels
Zion Hodgkin Contributing Writer
Front St. in Farmington, recently remodeled, has had a longstanding reputation of being one of the least pleasant areas in an otherwise quaint college town. Though there are some wonderful businesses that reside there like Wicked Good Candy, Narrow Gauge Cinema, and Thai Smile, a good stretch of the road had been largely ignored for many years. The street lights were dim, and few and far between, the road has been documented to have some of the worst potholes in the state of Maine, and the Front Street Tavern, tucked away in the basement of a building, attributed to a sense of unease for many college students.
Moreover, one of the largest parking lots for students at UMF was located just past the tavern, down a small road whose entrance was almost completely pitch black at night. For students to access their vehicles, they had to walk directly past the entrance to the tavern on a dark street. Many felt unsafe, and most avoided any reason to access their vehicles at night.
Over the summer the area was remodeled and improvements include better sidewalks, more street lights and a repaved roadway.
One student, Leelannee Farrington, age 20 at the time, recalls why she decided she would never walk that street at night again. “I knew that pub was a bit seedy, so I always hurried past it.” She said “occasionally I would get whistled or hollered at, but because it was so dark I assumed it was just drunk guys being excited about anything that moved, I didn’t usually feel specifically targeted.”
The look on her face shifted a bit. “Then one night, there was a group of guys and one girl, standing at the end of the pub’s driveway under the light from like the only god damn street lamp on that whole road. They were smoking cigarettes and laughing about something as I walked towards their direction.”
She paused before continuing a side note, “Actually I felt more at ease that time than I had some of the other times I’d walked past before, just because there was a whole group and a girl.” She said, “I always felt the most uncomfortable when it was just one or two guys catcalling at me, that’s when my anxiety about what could happen to me really started.”
Leelannee’s experience however, proved that even in groups there are people who will discard their inhibitions and attempt to harass individuals passing by. “One guy immediately noticed me,” she said, “and as I walked past the group he broke away from his friends and began following me, he was trying to flirt with me, and his words were all slurred and he stumbled a bit. I immediately felt panic as I was nearing an area of the road where the light didn’t reach.”
“I told him to fuck off,” she said, “and nothing bad came of it, but I wasn’t about to take that risk again.”
Richard Davis, the Farmington town manager of eighteen years, who was largely in charge of the planning process for the Front St. remodels, along with the Farmington Public Works Director, said he had “not heard about the harassment, but I can see where that might happen (unfortunately),” in an email interview. He also speculated that “the [Front Street] Tavern shutting down was an economic decision by the owners.” Regardless of the reasoning however, he believes that the closing of the Tavern as well as “the improvements [to the road] will help make people feel safer in that area of town, and while accessing their vehicles.