‘Walker friendly’ cities Residents, business owners, officials seek ideas for community

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 10, 2004

The city of Columbiana hosted a Walkable Community Workshop last Wednesday to help disover ways to make the city more friendly to walkers and to show off what has been down in the way of downtown renovation.

The workshop was made possible through a grant from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and brought together elected officials, city leaders, planners, members of the business community and citizens to focus attention on making cities more walkable.

The workshop began at the recently renovated city recreation center on Washington Street with an introduction and a look at what other communities are doing.

Next, participants took a walk to Mildred and Main streets looking at sidewalks in need of replacement or repair, traffic problems, such as speeding and ways to reduce traffic speed with landscaping, ways to make intersections appear more unique with painted designs as well as to examine what is being done with the current downtown renovation.

Following the walk, participants returned to the recreation center where they broke up into small groups and developed their own ideas to make Columbiana more walkable.

Jim Strickland, former mayor and local businessman in Columbiana, said his group suggested improvements in sidewalks linking the high school to the business district and creating pocket parks.

Other suggestions included the need for a parking deck to allow shoppers to park their cars and enjoy what downtown has to offer; the use of

upper floors of businesses for loft apartments in the future; and the continual hosting of events to bring people to downtown.

Stacy Walkup, executive director of the South Shelby County Chamber of Commerce suggested using islands in the road near the high school to help control traffic.

Charlie Gandy, who served as instructor for the workshop, noted that in the end there were agreements about things such as sidewalks and disagreements such as the need for a parking deck.

&uot;You’ve got a tremendous start on Main Street,&uot; he said, commending city officials for work already done on downtown sidewalks.

He also said there were some new ideas to follow through on.

Gandy showed participants how other cities have made use of flowers instead of concrete to separate traffic; to reduce traffic speed to make outdoor areas open for entertainment use such as cafes; the use of unique designs to make crosswalks more attractive; and reflections of a

city’s identity to re-enforce the feeling of community in parks.

Those who attended the meeting included Columbiana Councilmember Ouida Mayfield; citizen Bob Sauers; Columbiana Mayor Allan Lowe; Columbiana Pubic Works Director Hilry King; Allan Reynolds of Columbiana; Walkup; Ronnie Conn of Columbiana Park & Recreation; Michele Walker of the Columbiana Beautification Board;

Christie Pannell of Shelby County Department of Developmental Services; Xin He of the Shelby County Department of Developmental Services; Columbiana Councilmember Sherry Rush, citizen and businessman Jimmy Davis;

Bill Justice of the Columbiana Planning Commission; Columbiana Councilmember Tom Seale; citizen and businessman Jim Strickland; Kim Joiner, Shelby SWLD; James Ponseti, Shelby County Developmental Services;

Harry He, Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham; Angela Nash, citizen; J. Robert Stewart of the U.S. Green Building Council; Reg Harris; Joey Hester of the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham; and Jennifer Fairley