Not exactly a walk in the Park
January 31, 2007
Lately, Park City has invested a lot of effort in becoming a "walkable" community. It’s a nice idea, but after testing the notion during the Sundance Film Festival, it is apparent that there is still a lot of work to be done.
Before the festival, Mountain Trails Foundation and the Sundance Institute partnered to encourage festival participants to walk from venue to venue and while we initially applauded the effort, it may have been a bit overly optimistic.
Unusually cold temperatures were part of the problem, but icy sidewalks, intermittent snowbanks blocking walkways and lots of dark corners also presented obstacles for even the most ambitious pedestrians.
The bus system, we must say, was splendid and probably averted what could have been a paralyzing, 10-day gridlock, but for many of those who decided to hoof it, especially at night, it was perilous.
In one, albeit isolated, instance during the festival, the police say, a woman walking from Main Street to a neighborhood along Park Avenue was stalked and assaulted by two men. The attack could have occurred anywhere and at any time but the fact that it happened to an out-of-town visitor who might have been encouraged to forego a bus or taxi by the city’s cheerful "Walkdance" promotion, suggests that additional safety measures and cautions should accompany future ‘walkability’ initiatives.
Granted, Sundance is a tough test for local pathways, but a good one. Those of us who did walk the talk learned where the sidewalks are broken, where driveways create bottomless ponds across the walkways, where the distance between snowbanks and oncoming traffic is barely one size bigger than a shoe.
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Sadly, one woman learned that Park City is not immune to urban crime.
If Park City citizens want to make their community walkable all year, areas like Kearns Boulevard and Deer Valley Drive will need additional lighting, busy intersections like the one at Bonanza Drive and Kearns Boulevard will have to be more clearly signaled for pedestrians, sidewalks on many sections of Main Street will have to be widened and businesses will have to clear islands of snow that force walkers into the roadway. As part of the plan the city should also consider installing emergency alarm boxes, like those found on college campuses, in a few strategic places, like City Park, so walkers can quickly summon help if they feel threatened.
Making Park City walkable, with its narrow streets, severe winter climate and steep hills, is a tall order but a worthy goal. Walkdance may not have gained as many fans as Sundance but it was a small step in the right direction.
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