Citizens and city staff gathered at the Pierre Chamber of Commerce on December 4, 2014 as part of the walkability audit process. The end result of this process is a series of recommendations to make our community more walkable that will be considered in future planning. The purpose of this particular meeting was to gather stakeholders and begin the conversation around walkability. Within the framework of this objective the goals of the meeting were:
1) Communicate the benefits and need for a walkable community.
2) Establish a common definition of walkability among stakeholders.
3) Evaluate the walkability of various sites around the community using pictures and maps.
4) Gather input from stakeholders identifying challenges, questions, and concerns that will inform the process and final recommendations on how to foster and build a more walkable community.
Tom Farnsworth, Director of the Parks and Recreation department, screened a Powerpoint presentation on walkability. It included pictures from the community showing the good, the bad and the ugly of walkability in Pierre. John Childs, City Engineer, and Sharon Pruess, City Planner, provided comments from their respective sectors. Participants engaged in discussion, addressing various concerns and topics.
A number of issues were discussed and considered. The following points recurred throughout the course of the morning.
1. Pierre has a sidewalk ordinance. Landowners are required to put in a sidewalk within one year after being issued a building permit.
2. Walkability in neighborhoods undergoing development is a challenge. Building a sidewalk before the structure compromises the sidewalk during construction of the structure.
3. Citizens have an important role in making Pierre walkable in regards to the development and maintenance of sidewalks and boulevards. Engaging citizens and landowners in building and maintaining their sidewalks is done through a combination of relationships, outreach and ordinance.
4. Money and staff capacity for maintenance is a perpetual challenge in building and repairing trails and City owned sidewalks.
5. Connectivity is a desired attribute of a trail/sidewalk system. Sidewalks and trails should lead somewhere and connect different parts of town. Maintenance, completeness and safety of sidewalks and trails are part of connectivity.
6. There are locations in the community that have challenges in walkability i.e. Country Drive, Eastgate in the new development on the north end of town, Hilgers Gulch and 4th Street trail, Lowell Street south to PILC and land around the soccer fields.
7. Striping and signage are additional strategies for increasing walkability.
8. Trees are a desirable asset that facilitate walkability particularly in commercial sections but need to be properly sited, planted and maintained.
The next step is to conduct a walkability assessment to collect on-the-ground data about walkability. That data, the points that rose to the top from the pre-assessment meeting, and additional input from staff, officials, citizens and experts will be synthesized into final recommendations to the city and citizens to create a more walkable community.
Anne C. Lewis
Park and Rec Advisory Board Chair