Last night, a few dozen neighbors and I pored over blow up aerial photos of our town. We had gathered at the invitation of Bernie Kubiak, the town manager, who is using a HUD sustainability grant to develop a Complete Streets and Downtown Livability Plan for the South Deerfield village center.The group of townspeople are members of a committee to provide ideas on how to make our town better.
The group is diverse–many volunteers have only lived in town a short while, and others, their whole lives. I gain my New England cred by being here 22 years, and by once owning a cafe that made the town center much nicer, thank you very much. As we went around the room doing introductions, the most common theme was how un-pedestrian friendly our village has become.
One target that got the most ink on the aerial photo maps was the pesky triangle that serves as our town common. It’s an island bisected by busy roads, and many said they wished it felt safer to consider letting their kids ride all the way to Yankee Candle, or to school. Many felt that with all of the curb cuts and the way the cars are blocked visually by parked vehicles, it’s pretty dangerous.
Officlals of the consulting company who are organizing these meetings plus a town-wide charette said that often, road paint provides a simple and inexpensive answer. They showed slides of how pedestrian safety was enhanced near Smith College by painting huge white stripes for crosswalks. We marked up the maps with red and green pens and pondered the future. One thing that’s coming which may have a huge impact is daily train service from Springfield to Vermont, which crosses right through our downtown. Many felt that this train crossing was already a problem–what will it be like with 20 or 25 Amtrak trains passing through filled with passengers on the new Knowledge Corridor?
Stay tuned many more meetings and ideas will come out of these meetings, and hopefully, our town will be a little more livable and pedestrian/bike friendly as a result.