2010-02-17 / Marketplace

Walkability tour could yield changes in downtown view

BY EMILY CASWELL

Dan Burden Dan Burden LAPEER — Adding benches, flowers and crosswalks to the city’s walking paths, Nepessing Street sidewalks and near Farmers Creek could be small steps to making Lapeer a better place to live and work.

Those improvements, along with adding reverseangle parking downtown and making it free to use the Historic Courthouse, were a few of the suggestions given by expert Dan Burden during a walkability tour last week designed to make the community more pedestrian friendly.

Fourteen people from various boards and commissions in Lapeer County were on the tour, including Lapeer City Manager Dale Kerbyson.

Following the tour, Burden gave a presentation about walkability to the group at Louie’s Sports Tavern.

“Everybody was very impressed with the observations,” said Kerbyson.

Burden was brought to Lapeer with grant money awarded to the city by the Michigan Municipal League. Lapeer was one of five communities awarded about

After a walking tour around downtown Lapeer, walkability expert Dan Burden gave a presentation about the walkability of Lapeer to city officials and members of various boards and commissions in Lapeer County, at Louie’s Sports Tavern in Lapeer. After a walking tour around downtown Lapeer, walkability expert Dan Burden gave a presentation about the walkability of Lapeer to city officials and members of various boards and commissions in Lapeer County, at Louie’s Sports Tavern in Lapeer. 20,000 in grant money to study eight items aimed at improving the local economy.

“We were lucky to secure one of those five grants,” said Kerbyson.

Kerbyson said by no means do he and other city officials think additional walking trails are the key to improving the economy, however, making the community more walkable is one piece of the puzzle, and they wanted to look at that first.

“It’s one component,” he said.

While some of Burden’s suggestions were dramatic changes, most of them, said Kerbyson, were subtle and specific, all aimed to make the community more walkable.

City officials and other board and commission members in Lapeer County took a walking tour of downtown Lapeer last week. Expert Dan Burden told the group that Farmers Creek, which they are crossing in this photo, is the treasure of the downtown area and should be better highlighted. City officials and other board and commission members in Lapeer County took a walking tour of downtown Lapeer last week. Expert Dan Burden told the group that Farmers Creek, which they are crossing in this photo, is the treasure of the downtown area and should be better highlighted. Burden called Farmers Creek a treasure for the community and encouraged officials to plan around it. He said that while many communities were built around the car, now is the time to change that and build the community around the walker. He talked a lot about “place making” — turning streets into places people gather and spend time, either talking, walking, eating or shopping.

One of Burden’s suggestions called for a flower bed

the median of Nepessing street heading toward Bowers Road near The Lapeer Agency. The planter would not only be aesthetically pleasing to drivers and walkers, it would slow traffic and make it easier for walkers to cross Nepessing going from one half the city trails to the other.

That suggestion could be completed as early as this spring, said Kerbyson, depending on how planning for the parks and recreation budget goes.

Other changes, like expansion of the city’s trail system, will take more time and money, but a request for a grant for one portion of that extension already has been sent to Congresswoman Candice Miller’s office.

Kerbyson said Burden’s suggestion of reverse-angle parking raised the most eyebrows because it’s new to Michigan.

Burden said the thing he found most appalling was the fact that the county charges for use of the Historic Courthouse. Kerbyson said he will be taking Burden’s concern to the county commission in the future.

There was plenty of good news out of the presentation as well.

“He (Burden) was impressed with the building blocks we have in place already,” said Kerbyson.

With much of its trail system already operational, Kerbyson said the city is

many steps ahead of other communities as far as our walkability rating.” That rating, however, gets much lower when you move away from the downtown area, something Burden, who said Lapeer should be completely walkable, thinks Lapeer can improve.

With the next portion of the Michigan Municipal League grant money the city plans to bring in an expert who will help the city discover and hone the talent entrepreneurs in the area.

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