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Walk, this way, to meetings

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

If it’s not cold or snowing, maybe neighbors will walk to three meetings scheduled next week.

The gatherings, pivotal as City Hall tries to make Park City easier to navigate for pedestrians and other people not driving cars, are scheduled as the local government compiles opinions from regular Parkite about sidewalks, trails and crossings.

The city is conducting a wide-ranging study of walking habits in Park City and the upcoming meetings are significant for City Hall and its consultant in anticipation of crafting an overall plan.

"It’s going to be fun to dream," says Carol Potter, the executive director of Mountain Trails Foundation, a trails advocacy group.

Potter plans to attend each of the three meetings scheduled next week and she predicts lots of turnout by regular Parkites.

The schedule is:

( Monday, Dec. 4 from 4:30 p.m. until 6 p.m. at the Racquet Club. The meeting is designed for people who live in Park Meadows and Prospector.

( Tuesday, Dec. 5 from 4:30 p.m. until 6 p.m. in the Park City Council’s chambers at City Hall. The city anticipates people from Old Town and Deer Valley will attend.

( Wednesday, Dec. 6 from 4:30 p.m. until 6 p.m. in the City Council’s chambers. People from the neighborhood around Park City Mountain Resort, Thaynes Canyon, Aspen Springs and Iron Canyon are expected.

Parkites and others may attend any of the meetings, regardless of where they live, however.

Walking and bicycling safety in Park City, unexpectedly, became one of the top issues with Parkites in 2006. Neighbors mobilized in the spring and early summer, as Mayor Dana Williams and the Park City Council considered the city’s budget, and secured money for the ongoing study.

The neighbors, in a congenial manner, lobbied for the money from the city, including staging an organized bicycle ride from Prospector to City Hall to testify in favor of the budget item. The elected officials agreed to fund what is a $122,270 study. The upcoming meetings are part of the study.

"We hope that they come there with an issue, to be honest," says consultant Mark Vlasic, whose firm received the study contract.

Neighbors have lodged lots of complaints about what they see as obstacles to walking in the city, including a lack of sidewalks, crosswalk problems and too few trails.

Several neighborhoods have been discussed, including the North of Main district, bisected by busy Bonanza Drive, and Park Meadows. There have been long-running concerns about the Kearns Boulevard corridor, particularly near the schools complex.

"We know that there are issues crossing the highway," Vlasic says, referring to Kearns Boulevard.

He adds that there is also a perception that students walking to school in Park Meadows are endangered by traffic in the neighborhood.

Meanwhile, Vlasic wants to present the findings of a scientific survey as early as the Dec. 4 meeting. The pollsters continued conducting the survey last week, however, and he is unsure when the results will be tabulated.

Jon Weidenhamer, a City Hall planner working with Vlasic, predicts the Dec. 4 meeting, for people in Park Meadows and Prospector, will draw the most people, perhaps between 50 and 80. He says the consultant team will attend the meetings, including traffic engineers and planners.

Officials from City Hall want to listen to people describe their favorite trails, where they walk and where they do not feel safe when they walk, he says. Weidenhamer expects that participants will target Kearns Boulevard and Bonanza Drive, including crossing the roads.

Weidenhamer expects that a list of possible improvements, based on the survey and opinions from the meetings, will be drafted in early January, with more detailed options and rankings compiled at the beginning of February. The elected officials will then debate whether to fund the improvements during the city’s budget season, which usually starts in the spring and ends in June.

City Hall frequently touts the city’s trail system as one of its modern-era successes and officials see the trails as a means to reduce traffic by encouraging Parkites and visitors to walk or bicycle in the city instead of driving.

There are numerous off-road links in the city, including a critical connection, known as the Poison Creek trail, between Old Town and Prospector that follows a paved path on the eastern edge of City Park.

In September, a different consultant led a group of Parkites on a walking tour, pointing out issues along the Poison Creek trail and along Bonanza Drive.

Potter, the trails advocate, expects that people at the upcoming meetings will ask for a safer route to schools and will want better Bonanza Drive crossings, such as a tunnel or crosswalks.

Meanwhile, Marianne Cone, a City Councilwoman who plans to attend one of the meetings, says she is unsure what people will discuss and she prefers "hearing solutions from people who live in the neighborhood."

Cone, who lives in Old Town, is intrigued by the idea of building more sidewalks along Marsac Avenue. Walking along the street, which links Old Town and upper Deer Valley, she says, is a challenge.

"I think it’s terrifying as it is," Cone says.


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