Monday, October 28, 2013

Plan Emerges to Talk to City Council in White Shirts for Trails & Bike Paths on November 12th

On October 21st, the ABetterShreveport meeting focused on paths and trails in the greater Shreveport area.  Members in attendance included Loren, Maurice, Lani, Cynthia, Cathy, Chris, Feico, and intern, Amanda. Guests in attendance included Dara Sanders, Jim Broyles, and Will Rolfe, a Centenary student and member of the Greenhouse Living Learning Community.
The possibilities for paths using drainage ditches & levees
The questions that launched the group into discussion were: How can we create an environment that facilitates and encourages healthier living for our community? More specifically, how can we create more trails and paths in the greater Shreveport area?
In his research and correspondence with the Levy Board, Feico Kempff had found that a proposal has been put forward for a study of Sand Beach Bayou in Shreveport. They were talking about paving and doing work on the drainage ditches. They were even talking about making it amenable for a bike lane or route.
Dara noted she hadn’t heard of it.   It was noted there might be some concerns about it, especially at the green level, understanding that natural drainage and not paving our natural drainage routes is more of a best practice in terms of slowing down the flow when it does get filled up, decreasing the amount of runoff water that pollute our water bodies, taking away the natural filtration and purification  of the water.  So, it’s a bit alarming that there seems to be a move to pave those drainage ditches.  From a maintenance standpoint, it could increase our costs on having to maintain that additional pavement, again and again, when it continues to break up because the water flow is going to start picking up and eroding it. You’re also worsening the heat island effect of the city.  And further, if we ARE going to lay down concrete, we should be identifying ways of using it to also to allow get humans to get around walking and biking, instead of just ways for the water to get around.
Happily, though, the levy boards seems to be all for using those levees and drainage ditches for alternative transportation, to create bike paths or trails.
Dara also noted that there is federal funding available for assisting with the maintenance and the expansion of networks like this. It was noted that we have share research on the possibilities with our government administration, and communicate the value we place on an alternative transportation network of paths that would facilitate healthy living.  We need to communicate how cost effective this kind of low impact infrastructure is.  It reduces wear on roads when people walk and bike instead of driving,  and it’s a significantly  lower cost than maintaining the additional streets that we take on when we annex new properties into the city limits.
One company now fabricates a kit: one size fits all!

It was noted we also have planning policies and principles with our master plan that we didn’t have before that show high priority on alternative transportation and in transportation choices. Again continuing to educate not only the administration but also each department.  These goals are significantly different from our past practices.

The group discussed how we reach can advocate more effectively.  It was noted we can advocate for something positive in our proposal to the city council, effectively communicating our goal, which is--on this issue--to create more trails and paths, and eventually to create a complete pedestrian and bicycle network that can be used for transportation.

It was noted that this needs to become a more collaborative approach. First, the city council (which has the funding) and the Mayor (who has the staff) can help by directing those resources to the effort. Then, they can ask that the Metropolitan Planning Commission participate in that exercise as well, because the Metropolitan Planning Commission is a separate entity. By looking at existing networks such as floodplains and floodways, drainage, railroad, easements over water & sewer, the need becomes necessary to take into consideration the existing networks that you cannot construct a permanent structure over.  The community can use existing networks that cannot be developed otherwise.  If we had a trails coordinator like the city of Fayetteville, Arkansas,  then the coordinator could be given a budget every year and actively seek easements in order to create those trails and paths.  


Before breaking up, Centenary student William Rolfe, from Centenary College’s Living Learning Community known as “the Greenhouse” (dedicated to sustainable living), updated us on their work on the Coates Bluff Trail.  He said that through the course of doing community service with the Greenhouse program, they’ve been cleaning the trail behind the Montessori school that runs from there to Magnet, and now they’re working on a branch that would connects to Clyde Fant.  Many in attendance have worked on the trail themselves and were excited and grateful to hear the news!

It was noted that Shreveport has never had an Alternative Transportation plan, but there is a master street plan that  could be developed that identifies existing and future streets that would be overseen by the Metropolitan Planning Commission. Currently we only have a map of our existing streets.


The group decided that they should go to a City Council meeting and ask to speak on the issue.  Among the points we’ll make is to identify the number of times the topic is pointed out in the Master Plan.  We’ll ask as a unified group ask that the issue be taken to the Infrastructure Committee (public and groups such as A Better Shreveport can attend), ask also that the Metropolitan Planning Commission to participate, and that Mayor’s staff & MPC to explore the opportunities that accompany this type of project.  (Wearing white shirts at the meeting could be used as a sign of solidarity, it was later decided; it's the color of a crosswalk, but also likely available and being worn.)
City Council meetings are held the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of every month at 3 p.m.  There is a 3 minute per person limitation to present a case, visuals, or best practices.  Encouragement to attend and address the concerns and issues are welcomed.
The first public meeting for the Unified Development Code Project  will be  on November 5, 2013, from 6-8 p.m. This will allow us the chance to participate and help them see things from another perspective.  It will be presentation style first, followed by discussing the processes that they follow to implement policies. The concept of “Bikeability/Walkability”could be presented to the committee at that time, so next week’s meeting needs to focus on the roles those who will present will play in the presentation of ideas to the UDC  on November 5.
Before disbanding for the evening, Cathy showed a Google Earth intersection from Bentonville, AR of a shared bike path.  The Citywide expansion there was due to the installation in Fayetteville,  and that coincidentally influenced the installation of bike paths in Bentonville. Arkansas.  These multi-use trails  and alternative transportation routes make it easier to recognize cyclists, and makes it safer for the pedestrians/cyclists in the community.
It was noted that from the tourism aspect of things, this makes the environment seem more friendly. It gives people a better sense of security when they use alternative transportation routes. Motorists are more attentive to their surroundings and lookout for the cyclists/pedestrians. Signs placed for reminders. Private contributions were influential in Northwest Arkansas’ implementation of these paths. Volunteers and donations from the health-care industry, The Waltons, private non-profit organizations that were willing to contribute all aided in carrying out the plans. So, Private/Public Partnerships are vital for support to get conformity.
Cathy mentioned that we could get $100 donations to cover the costs for  the yellow aluminum signs that could be placed to help increase awareness and safety for pedestrians and cyclists. Just gathering donations from organizations and placing them along the most travelled places first would even be an improvement. But there’s an overall need for a long-term project educating the public on safety measures including the children of our area through things such as the Sheriff Department’s “Safety Town,” and find those who are willing to donate and get them involved.
October 28:  General meeting to address miscellaneous issues
November 4:  Bike Route Maps; bringing in supporters for the cause
November 11:  Delegating and crafting presentations for the next day’s City Council meeting, including talking points, maps, images, testimonies, etc.
November 12:  City Council meeting starting at 3:00 in Council Chambers at Government Plaza at 505 Travis Street.
November 18:  Education meeting focused on charter schools.

No comments: