Designing Walkable Communities (Part 2)

Posted on May 30, 2015 in inspiring INvironmentalism

Gig Harbor, you walked + reconsidered

Designing walkable communities Part 2

Check out what your fellow citizens think of our downtown!

By Brett Marlo DeSantis

In February, you were invited to join the City of Gig Harbor & the Downtown Waterfront Alliance in conducting a walking audit of our downtown. We thank you for your participation.

Don’t fret if you missed the audit. Here is another chance to engage in this process. Please review the following observations and recommendations. Let us know if we are missing anything. The most important part of the audit process is your participation—those who know the area, live or work here. We want to hear from you.

Walking audits allow members of the community a great way to collect vital information for creating and maintaining a pedestrian-friendly environment. The goals of the waterfront walking audit include: highlighting public access; identifying underused assets, way-finding opportunities, impediments and safety issues for pedestrians; and collecting data to better understand and assist our city in planning and tackling these recommendations.

Harborview Drive links all marinas, greenspaces and public right of way along the downtown corridor. The walkers were given maps, and encouraged to take notes and pictures.  We asked that you assess the downtown corridor first by describing what works, is missing or in disrepair; commenting on public access and signage to the waterfront and amenities; and accessing the position and condition of sidewalks, crossings, bike lanes and bus stops.

Lastly, we ask you to help us finalize this report by taking the opportunity to share your thoughts and ideas for future plans. The results of the audits will be put into a report that will support our city planning, and create action items that we can tackle immediately as a community.

You walked, we listened. Here are our priorities.

Walkers, walkers and more walkers love our downtown. Yet there are areas along the waterfront where sidewalks are simply too narrow. What opportunities do we have to widen where we walk?

We can begin by asking our local businesses to cut back overgrown plants, and work with our city and local businesses to increase the sidewalk width in critical across along the Harborview stretch. Hazards such as dog waste were noted many times, even though there are waste bags provided by the city. Pick up the poop people and keep our sidewalks clear of hazards!

Downtown is full of amenities, and yet we lack engagement. This may be due to a need for signage or understanding, or perhaps an assumption these properties are for private use only. Let’s discuss how we connect our spaces and places together and rethink our approach. Public spaces from the old ferry dock landing at the mouth of the bay to the Russell Foundation, Jerisich/Skansie, Ancich, Eddon Boatyard, Austin Estuary, Harbor History Museum, Donkey Creek and Finholm district offer our community waterfront viewing, and sometimes even beach access. As residents, and visitors, are we aware of this public offering? Could you name which public spaces have beach access?

A better way-finding system would include signage such as: pedestrian-scale signs at parks and trails identifying public access, direction and walking times. For example, you are a half mile to, or 5 minutes to Harbor History Museum. Interpretive signage perhaps explaining the salmon lifecycle at Donkey Creek would educate our community and visitors. Moreover adding mile marks for walkers, bikers and runners would create another level of interest.

Sightlines and safety issues were observed as challenges due to driveway configurations, and gaps in lighting. Some great recommendations: adding night sky friendly lighting, mid-block crosswalks, lowering speed limit, and installing pedestrian flag buckets.

We design and create a built environment that encourages us to have a positive outdoor experience, develop relationships within our community and connect with the places where we live. As community members, we have the opportunity to weigh-in on these issues.

Now is the time. There’s room for improvement, and the people in positions to make change to our city plans and policies have asked for our input and their pens are poised. Rally and show our community that you care by engaging. Let’s make great change together!