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Walkers descend on NoMa

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF
Mark Fenton, whose expertise is in making cities easier to navigate for walkers, speaks to a crowd at the western edge of the Rail Trail, off Bonanza Drive. Several dump trucks passed a crosswalk that many in the city see as dangerous as Fenton spoke. Jay Hamburger/Park Record
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At the Rail Trail, Mark Fenton eyed a makeshift bridge, barely wide enough for a person, made of planks crossing a small creek. Close by he saw a narrow trail, apparently created over the years by people taking a shortcut from some nearby apartments.

Fenton, a nationally recognized expert in creating communities more inviting to walkers and others who are not driving cars, spent part of Tuesday morning pointing out similar scenes on the route between City Park and the North of Main district, off Bonanza Drive, sometimes known as NoMa.

Fenton led a sizable group of Parkites, numbering several dozen and standing out as they walked in a cluster along a pathway connecting City Park and NoMa, on what was billed as a ‘walkable audit,’ a method for the Parkites to learn about how easy or difficult navigating Park City is.

Fenton, who hosts a PBS television show, America’s Walking, led the group across Bonanza Drive at the Rail Trail, a notorious crossing where pedestrians and bicyclists sometimes rush across the street to avoid drivers.

On the Rail Trail, one of the city’s most popular spots for cyclists and hikers, the group walked a short distance east from Bonanza Drive.

The event was significant as it came amid a wide-ranging discussion in Park City about ways to make the city safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. Fenton’s appearance, although not arranged by City Hall, was scheduled as the local government awaits submittals from consultants seeking a contract to study biking and walking issues in Park City.

The submittals are due on Sept. 28, the contract is tentatively scheduled to be awarded on Oct. 19, with a completion date anticipated in mid-February.

Carol Potter, the executive director of Mountain Trails Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to expanding trails, says that the Fenton-led tour, which she went on, was "awesome." Potter, who organized the event, says about 60 people attended a lecture by Fenton at Miners Hospital and about 40 of them walked to NoMa with him.

"I learned Park City really wants a walkable community . . . this turnout, this enthusiasm, this response," Potter says. "There were eye-opening moments for everybody out there."

Potter says the tour revealed to her that people do not necessarily use marked or maintained trails. Frequently they use trails that were not designed but instead carved by people constantly taking shortcuts, she says, noting a route from Woodbine Way to Bonanza Drive as an example.

"There are paths people have used for years I didn’t realize were there," she says.

Fenton visited Park City as the community continues what is an aggressive review of trails, paths and the safety of streets for walkers and bicyclists, largely spurred by a bloc of Parkites that pressured the government for money to study the issues.

He also arrived as City Hall is contemplating a package of changes to Park City’s development code addressing the NoMa district, which developer Rodman Jordan wants to reshape as a trendy destination for Parkites and visitors. Jordan envisions the district becoming more inviting for pedestrians through improvements to streets and sidewalks, among other upgrades.

The pathway between City Park and NoMa is a critical connection in the city, linking Old Town and Prospector, that is seen as an alternative to people walking or riding their bicycles along Bonanza Drive, one of the city’s most congested streets.

"I thought it was very enlightening. The speaker knew an awful lot about the relationship between traffic, trails and government," says Park City Councilman Roger Harlan, one of a group of government officials who walked with Fenton.

Harlan’s impression of the City Park-NoMa route is that it is "relatively safe." He admits that "crossing Bonanza is problematic," though.

A crosswalk now exists on Bonanza Drive near the Rail Trail and flashing lights have been installed to warn drivers that someone is crossing the street. Still, there have been lots of near misses at the crosswalk between drivers and pedestrians and bicyclists.

Harlan, who is expected to review the NoMa development-code changes with the other City Councilors once they clear the Planning Commission, potentially as early as next week, says the district could be attractive to people not driving cars if it is designed well.

"We will wind up with a project that incorporates all the good things he talked about," Harlan says, referring to Fenton’s comments, such as building apartments and condominiums above retailers.

Potter, the trails advocate, also is concerned with the Bonanza Drive crosswalk, saying "crossing Bonanza is terrifying." She notes that there is a school bus stop nearby, making the road potentially dangerous for kids. Potter says that some people who participated suggested that more crosswalks be built along Bonanza Drive or a tunnel be built underneath the road for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Meanwhile, Carolyn Frankenburg, a leader in the Coalition of Safe Streets, who participated on Tuesday, says that the route Fenton took is adequate along Poison Creek but the traffic makes it more difficult once in NoMa.

Her group pressed City Hall for the biking and walking study during budget hearings in the spring and she says Fenton showed "absolutely stunning" knowledge of issues in Park City.

Frankenburg says she is interested in Fenton’s statements about the Bonanza Drive crossing at the Rail Trail and how it could be designed to make it safer.

"It’s the only option that’s there if you’re walking or bicycling. People use it. I think it’s pretty unsafe," she says, adding. "You run into the intermingling of pedestrians and traffic."


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