Tuesday, October 28, 2008

We got the grant! National Park Service Press Release below:

October 20, 2009
Deirdre Hewitt, 404-562-3175


(ATLANTA)---The National Park Service has selected fifteen communities and partnerships in the Southeast to receive planning and technical assistance in developing new outdoor recreation opportunities and preserving important local natural resources.

Through the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) Program, the National Park Service helps communities and neighborhoods preserve their important local resources, protect river resources, develop new trails and greenways and create new open space. These projects are locally-led with RTCA staff supporting local recreation and conservation leaders.

“We help citizens work with local agencies and organizations to create new parks and trails and to help protect important water resources,” said Deirdre Hewitt, who manages the RTCA Program in the National Park Service’s Southeast Region. “We do not provide money for projects. We provide staff with recreation and conservation planning expertise. These staff assists local sponsors to organize public workshops, develop public-private partnerships, identify funding sources and develop community-based visions and realistic strategies for new trails, greenways, protected river corridors and natural areas.”

Ms. Hewitt said that the National Park Service has been a catalyst in helping communities throughout the Southeast. “Each year we help community leaders accomplish their local visions across the region”. RTCA also helps bring new public and private partners to local projects. “The nation now recognizes the health benefits associated with close-to-home park and trail opportunities,” Hewitt said. “The RTCA Program is working throughout the nation to bring public and private members of the health profession into community partnerships that lead to new community parks and recreation facilities.”

Each year the RTCA Program evaluates requests for assistance and selects new communities and organizations for technical assistance. To serve communities throughout the southeast, the RTCA Program has offices in Asheville, North Carolina; Atlanta, Georgia; Chattanooga, Tennessee; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Sarasota, Florida, and Ocean Springs, Mississippi.

This is the list of projects accepted for assistance by the RTCA Program for Fiscal Year 2009.


River of Grass Greenway – The River of Grass Greenway (ROGG) is a proposed non-motorized transportation and recreation corridor across the Everglades, connecting this unique natural resource with the densely populated east and west coasts of southern Florida. The greenway will be approximately 75 miles long, with a separate hardsurface 12 foot wide trail that generally parallels U.S. 41 (Tamiami Trail), connecting Collier to Miami-Dade County. The ROGG will provide a pathway between the following parks: Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, Collier-Seminole State Park, Picayune Strand State Forest, and possibly the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.


Pulaski County Blueway & River Parks Project – RTCA will help Pulaski County and the Town of Hawkinsville develop a plan for a 14 mile blueway on the Ocmulgee River that connects public launch areas in Houston and Pulaski Counties with the newly renovated river parks in Hawkinsville. There will also be linkages to the new Go Fish Visitor Center in Perry.

Boundary Waters Park Trail Project – RTCA will assist Douglas County with the expansion of their trail system in Boundary Waters Park. This system will be connected to the proposed 100-mile Chattahoochee Hill Country Trail that includes the counties of Carroll, Coweta, Douglas, and Fulton.

Upper Chattahoochee River Canoe Trail Study -- RTCA, the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper and Georgia State Parks are working together to evaluate the feasibility of a canoe trail to connect 3 state parks, 2 federal parks, and a county park. The upper section of the river is between Helen and Lake Lanier.

Big Sandy River Water Trail – RTCA, the Big Sandy Area Development District and local communities collaborate on a water trail plan between Prestonsburg and Paintsville on the Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy River. The water trail will be promoted to generate interest in water quality, stimulate tourism, preserve local history and improve the image of the Big Sandy River.

Eagles Nest Equestrian Trails Preservation – The Commonwealth of Kentucky has an opportunity to protect 1000 acres of land and add over 30 miles of equestrian trails for public use near Harrodsburg. RTCA will assist the Ft. Harrod Back Country Horsemen, Inc., with a strategic plan to successfully secure this project site for future public equestrian use.

Jessamine County Historic Bluegrass Trail Project – The Jessamine County Trail Association intends to develop a countywide strategy to create trails and preserve the rural character. RTCA and local project partners will promote this project to designate bike routes, establish dedicated bike/pedestrian corridors and help maintain the existing rural landscape.

Louisville Loop Trail – RTCA will work with a local advisory committee to develop an organizational structure to sustain the 105 mile Louisville Loop Trail system currently being built around the city. The new management entity will enable the coordinated management, maintenance and funding for the Loop Trail among the many government and public groups with interests in the Trail.


Bayous to Use (Shreveport) – RTCA and the City of Shreveport will prepare a master plan for greenways and pedestrian/bike paths along existing drainage canals and levees. These drainage canals and levees offer the citizens of Shreveport a network of protected open spaces and trails. The planning process will include extensive public participation and the development of creative strategies to successfully implement the plan.

Dow Westside YMCA Trail (Addis) – The YMCA intends to build a 0.5 mile walking path on their site to promote healthy activity for their members and local residents. RTCA will assist with the planning process for the trail, publicity and public education to promote trail use by local residents.


Forrest County Multi-Use Trail Project – RTCA and Forrest County will prepare a county trail plan. The main connector for the trail system will be Black Creek from which a series of secondary trails will branch into communities. One of the proposed trails will connect an urban area between the Long Leaf Trace Rail Trail, the county hospital and University of Southern Mississippi.

North Carolina

Pioneering Healthier Communities – A variety of partners in Asheville are working together to implement a strategy that will make the City of Asheville more walkable, bikeable, and connected. The project will ultimately join neighborhoods, campuses, and downtown so that residents and visitors can increase physical activity and safely accomplish day to day activities depending on their feet and not their cars.

South Carolina

Lower Richland Passage of the Palmetto Trail Project (Midlands)– RTCA will work with the Palmetto Conservation Foundation and local governments to complete approximately 16 miles on one of the last sections of the Palmetto Trail system from Fort Jackson to the Wateree River. The entire Palmetto Trail will extend 425 miles across the State of South Carolina.

Upper Pee Dee Greenways, Trails and Blueways Initiative – RTCA will work with the Hartsville Family YMCA and the cities of Chesterfield, Darlington and Hartsville to prepare a plan for a network of greenways, trails and blueways in each community. The network of land and water trails and open space will connect each community to local and state parks, and promote economic development from new recreation and tourism-based businesses.

City streets closed to motor vehicles, once a week...

From a site found by Maurice Loridans:
"Recently, I had the opportunity to travel with comrades Karla Quintero (Transportation Alternatives) and Aaron Naparstek (Streetsblog) to Bogotá, Colombia to document some of the amazing advances going on in the livable streets movement there. On Sunday we spent the entire day - from 5 AM 'til nearly 5 PM - riding bicycles around the city courtesy of the Ciclovia, a weekly event in which over 70 miles of city streets are closed to traffic where residents come out to walk, bike, run, skate, recreate, picnic, and talk with family, neighbors & strangers...it is simply one of the most moving experiences I have had in my entire life."

See the film that this person made at:


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Local, practical, "concrete" project proposed at last meeting

Had a good, if smaller, meeting this past Monday evening. Thanks to Centenary Business Professor Kelly Weeks, Attorney Maurice Loridans, Caddo Commissioner Matthew Linn, and Montessori Middle School Teacher Jon Soul for their contributions.

I'll edit this post later to include points we discussed, but the most exciting development was the idea that targeting local, practical means of increasing walk/bike-ability should be started. We're gonna be trail builders, by gosh! And even--potentially--crosswalk and bike lane requesters!

I also had a good meeting with SPAR Director Shelly Raigle and Planner Tim Wachtel. Shelly is setting up a meeting with the Director of the Department of Operational Services, Mike Strong, and we also agreed that approaching NLCOG to be the convenor would be a good move to make in the near future.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Local demographics discouraging: Louisiana continues to lose solid citizens to other states

Demographer Elliott Stonecipher has tried to sound the alarm bell that contrary to what our leaders and others may be saying — Louisiana is losing residents to other states that offer more opportunity, writes Alison Bath in the Shreveport Times.

Population loss is a discouraging reality but perhaps a spur to groups like ABS. See the article here.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Good meeting Tuesday, next meeting Monday night!

First off remember we've got our first evening meeting of the year this year on Monday, at 6:00, in Centenary Square. Coffee and tea will be available, as will the internet and projection capabilities in case there's anything you'd want to show the group. (Usually we have google maps on the screen so we can zoom in and show various sites that relate to whatever we're talking about.)

Monday evening we'll be talking about:
  • The meeting I will have had that afternoon with Shelly Raigle, Director of SPAR, and Tim Wachtel, SPAR planner and ABetterShreveport contributor.
  • The value of ABetterShreveport becoming a 501 non-profit organization.
  • The opportunity of working with and possibly through The Center for Civic Engagement at Centenary.
  • Targetting Walk/Bike-to-School rates for specific schools.
  • Gaining access to the bayous slowly and legally, versus "quick and dirty."
We had a very good meeting this past Monday morning, and I wanted to thank, by way of introduction, all who attended and contributed: Steve Shelburne, Centenary English Professor and Founding Director of the Centenary Center for Civic Engagement; Jeff Wellburn, natural gas marketer and consultant (and a model of civic engagement himself); Paula Hickman, an attorney and Director of the Shreveport-Bossier Community Foundation; Tim Wachtel, Planner for the Shreveport Public Assembly and Recreation Department (SPAR); Charles Gerrard, Director of the Highland Area Partnership; Brad Armstrong, commercial real estate developer; Sally Spruel, Co-President of the Historic South Highlands Neighborhood Association; and myself, a sociologist at Centenary.

The short summary of our meeting is that we talked about the following:
  • how to think about funding the greenways proposal
  • what parties to involve in the working group that would push the proposal forward
  • the importance of making the greenways and trails part of an alternative transportation network that common origins and destinations
  • the utility of using existing infrastructure for that network that would include existing streets, some perhaps repainted with bike lanes
  • the utility of creating pilot transportation networks of trails and recommended walking and biking routes centered around schools, perhaps helped by:
  • our state department of transportation's Safe Routes to School Program
  • "mashups" where people are able to draw on online maps as a way of sharing their recommended routes
  • Steve Shelburne described his project of establishing an architectural restoration facility that could be situated in Highland or downtown.

The meeting began at roughly 8:30.

I started by reviewing our agenda, then updated the group on the status of our grant applications to the E.P.A. and the National Park Service for counsel on creating an alternative transportation network of multiuse paths and greenways using our existing infrastructure of levees, drainage bayous, and streets. Neither grant is for funding, though presumably some of the counsel we could get would be on how we should go about getting funding for the project. The gist of the update is that we haven't heard from the National Park Service yet, nor from the E.P.A. since our semi-final round interview.

I said that some of us on the phone for that interview got the impression that the E.P.A. was reticent about our application because we didn't have a governmental point person for the project. I said I had a meeting ahead with Shelly Wrangle of SPAR on Monday with Tim, and I asked about the team or work-group that we might want included. Jeff mentioned that DOS, and how Mike Strong or Wes Wyche would represent that at the upper level; Jeff also mentioned that Ali Mustafa is the water drainage engineer who is a great person to work with. It was said that other work group members might come from MPC, Shreveport Green, possibly someone from the Department of Health (obesity researchers in town were also mentioned), and the Department of Transportation Safe Routes to School Program (I mentioned Donna Cavenaugh of ThinkFirst). It was suggested that we consider asking the Mayor's office to lead it, or NLCOG. I mentioned that I'd talked to Dale Sibley about that originally. [Come to think of it, Dale may have suggested SPAR because he'd forgotten about the transportation network dimension of the project and was thinking of it more as just recreational. However, the transportation network aspect of the proposal should be part of it's appeal for funders, particularly when use of these networks has been shown to reduce wear and tear on roads.

I also described the idea that Jon Soul and I and Ian Webb had talked about on how we could target our own Montessori school's ride/walk rate with a number of strategies. One would be mapping the network of school families and constructing a set of recommended safe routes for "walking school buses" where a parent or two escorts kids on their walk or bike ride to school. (I do the walking thing myself; never thought I'd love it as much as I do.)

We talked about NLCOG as a possible convener for the working group if the Mayor's Office doesn't want to do it, or, even if it does, NLCOG might provide a better organizational vantage point if we want to apply the project to Bossier and places outside the city as well. For example, making a levee-top path that links Shreveport and Alexandria would be one application of the proposal that would fall outside the purview of city governments, but that would certainly be in the domain NLCOG. Paula Hickman described how NLCOG is often a conduit for federal monies used for transportation, and how they'd worked on getting the buses to run late [chuckles], and how they are the designated regional planning authority for our area. Paula said she thought NLCOG would be interested in working with our group. (I also mentioned how NLCOG's new bike-pedestrian advocacy committee met for the first time last week and five of our group on it [Maurice Loridans, Ian Webb, Emma McCarty, Robert Trudeau, and myself] and how it is trying to find potential members of the committee who are non-white.)

Steve Shelburne mentioned that as new public spaces, these greenways would be perceived as additional space that needs to be policed. Because of this, police officials should be brought into the planning process for the network sooner rather than later.

We also discussed why the working group would need GIS data, and how it will be helpful to know what software they use to work with it.

At 9:30 a number of people had to leave, but the meeting continued.

Steve talked about a project he's working on to establish a Restoration Facility somewhere in town. The facility would accept donations from demolition projects and renovations and would provide an outlet for cheap renovation materials. A number of them apparently exist in Dallas and bring in thousands of dollars in yearly revenue. Steve said facilities such as these help preserve historical materials and architecture details. Places like Shreveport's Highland area and downtown are in the process of losing such valuable materials without a facility like this.

I wondered aloud if it might also be able to serve an empowering role for people as well, in that the facility might be able to double as a center for mentoring apprentices learning construction, salvage, even tool maintenance. A bicycle shop or even car shop could also become part of the facilitation's communal resources. I described how a student of mine was working on a proposal for a tool collective in Highland.

The meeting ended at 10:00.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Next two meetings are set

Our next two meetings are scheduled: Tuesday the 14th at 8:30 a.m., and Monday the 20th at 6:00 p.m. Both meetings will take place at Centenary Square room 206. Bring your ideas, an open mind, and wisdom born of experience, and we can help each other move our projects forward.

On the docket for Tuesday morning's meeting:
- aspirations, ideas, and strategies for repainting streets for bike lanes
- forming a work group for the drainage bayous to greenways and bike paths proposals
- how to target areas and schools for increasing walk/bike to school rates
- downtown revitalization ideas

Fresh coffee will be on hand. Please join us if you can!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Bike Lane Video

Here's an interesting video on a different kind of bike lane. (Thanks Maurice!)


p.s. it's looking like we'll be meeting Monday evening at 5:30. let me know if you'd rather we start at six; i know one person would.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Let's meet!

Seems like a good time for it. After all, Kate Archer Kent was kind enough to publicize our group on KDAQ yesterday while I was on with her during their fund drive, but, when she asked when we meet, I was compelled to say we hadn't started back up yet this year.

Meeting could move us forward in existing directions and maybe get us started on new ones too. Anyone who's found out about the group and our ideas through whatever means might want to join us, and a number of us are working on various things we'd all like to hear about. I'll be happy to update people on the grants we've submitted, as well as the variety of project proposals my students are working on in my Urban Sociology class. Some of those projects have to do with Highland, some with biking, some with downtown.

So here's the question: what's the best time for us to meet? Monday evening at 5:30? Thursday morning at 8:30? Or Wednesday at noon, for a brown bag lunch?

Please comment here or e-mail me (ldemerath@gmail.com) to let me know what you'd prefer.