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Pathways Committee holds public forum on bike and pedestrian access to town

PUBLIC WORKS DIRECTOR DAVE FORD clarifies suggestions from residents identifying problems and/or needs in regard to safe and well-connected pedestrian and bicycle pathways in and about Wolfeboro during a Sept. 10 brainstorming session at Carpenter Elementary School, sponsored by the Wolfeboro Pathways Committee. (Elissa Paquette photo) (click for larger version)
September 19, 2013
WOLFEBORO — Wolfeboro's Pathways Committee invited residents, including those serving on other town committees and boards, and downtown business owners to meet with them at Carpenter Elementary School on September 10 to discuss ways to expand and connect bicycle, pedestrian and wheelchair access about town.

In summarizing the community's accomplishments in that direction, Director of Planning and Development Rob Houseman said, "It's helpful to remember where we were. In 2005, we had a 'finger in the dike' situation."

Since then, the Wolfeboro Area Recreation Association has established "The Nick" on Trotting Track Road with private funds, thereby offering increased recreational opportunities. Pathways of Wolfeboro (a fundraising offshoot of the Pathways Committee) raised private funds to enhance the Sewall Woods trail network, improve the Abenakee Trail adjacent to the town's ice arena and ski slope, making it accessible to pedestrians as well as cyclists and providing a connecting route into town. And Front Bay Park off of Bay Street, another example of a private/public partnership, offers pathways down to the water, a gazebo, kayak launch and benches upon which to rest and reflect.

Town projects such as the Glendon Street Parking lot (adjacent to Foss Field and the Rotary's Bridge Falls Path) and the new sidewalks and crosswalks leading up to Carpenter School (part of the government's Safe Routes to School endeavor that came to fruition with the help of Pathways members Kathy Barnard and Barbara Laverick) and the Albee Beach bathhouse have increased pedestrian and bike traffic.

Houseman told those gathered that he's noticed that each project, designed to meet a specific need, has had the effect of encouraging greater use of the trail networks. Bike racks placed down at the town docks and at the Railroad Station are well used and increasingly full.

He's noticed cars pulling into the Glendon Street lot loaded with bicycles. People get out, unload their bikes and take off down the Bridge Falls Path, which leads to the Cotton Valley Trail and Albee Beach.

The Albee Beach bath house, built to provide restrooms, changing rooms and showers to beachgoers, has become a way station for bikers riding the trail network. "We start out serving one purpose," said Houseman, "and adding draws."

The goal of the Pathways Committee, to develop a bicycle and pedestrian improvement implementation plan in line with the town Master Plan, has clearly led to improvements, but the meeting on Sept 10 was an opportunity for attendees to identify needs and problems in moving toward increased safety and ease of movement in and about town.

"Process guides design," declared Houseman.

"It's easy to repair and build, pave roads and fix water lines," offered Public Works Director Dave Ford, "but interconnectedness requires identification of the needs and the problems from stake holders." He pointed out that now that Bay Street is paved, traffic tends to speed up.

At the same time, the development of Front Bay Park has encouraged more walkers. If he knows in advance what is being planned, he can make allowances. In this case, he would have left more room for walkers and bikers.

State approval of the Center Street project, first brought forward at public stakeholder meetings, is an example of the benefit of providing opportunities for public input.

The Route 28 study process, which involved a similar brainstorming process, is critical to gaining a competitive advantage. Case in point, the state has put the Route 28 road reconstruction plan back on its 10-year list of projects. It won't be completed until 2024, but at least it's in the state's plan.

The breakout groups voiced their identification of problems and needs, not solutions at this point, to be consolidated by the committee for further study.

Some sample problems/needs identified by residents in discussing safe movement through the downtown and connecting one pathway to another were: crossing Route 28 from The Nick to Albee Beach, safe access from the high school complex to downtown, parking versus pedestrian/bike access, sidewalks, blind spots, parking next to crosswalks, how to integrate bicyclists, pedestrians, and vehicles from North Main to South Main Streets, and increased police (or traffic guides of some sort) to enforce rules.

Input is welcome from citizens through Houseman or Ford at Town Hall, Parks and Recreation Director Ethan Hipple, or by contacting members of the committee: Chairman Kathy Barnard, Jim Nupp, Barbara Laverick, Fred Tedeschi, Peter Cole, George Vanderheiden, Jim Eisenhower and Vaune Dugan.

The town website is a resource to anyone wishing to read the committee's minutes to know more about its work. Maps of the town's various resources are also available on line.

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