Southwick explores park and walk program


SOUTHWICK – Southwick Planner Marcus Phelps and Planning Board member Joseph Deedy presented a plan to the Board of Selectmen this week for a park and walk program in the town.
“Once the three miles of sidewalks are completed, people will be able to park and walk on the sidewalks,” said Phelps. “This concept is designed to reduce the flow of traffic in the center of town.”
Using an aerial photograph of the town, Phelps identified several businesses along College Highway with large parking lots and approached business owners to use parking spaces for the park and walk program.
“In the Village Shopping Plaza there are several spaces, the Southwick Package store has space, Gristmill Plaza has several spaces and Victor at Roma said we could use a couple of parking spaces there,” said Phelps.
A similar program in Manchester, Vermont, was launched with success, said Phelps. In that town. additional ways of finding information, such as a location map and directory, were added at each parking location, to improve pedestrian travel.
Deedy said the property owners would allow use of the parking spaces and signs would be placed at each space to let the public know they can park and walk there.
“So the individual business offers the parking spaces and the town pays for the signs?” asked Selectwoman Tracy Cesan.
“Yes,” said Deedy.
Selectman Russell Fox said he believes it would be good for business and could help draw people to Southwick.
“And I think we will get people who want to use the sidewalks for exercise,” said Fox.
Phelps agreed and said once complete, the sidewalks would create a “nice loop” for walkers.
According to the website, a successful park and walk program should have the cooperation of merchants, politicians, community groups and neighbors, which is something Phelps and Deedy are working on now. They both acknowledge it is still in its infancy, but the program could flourish by next summer.
The site also suggests that a community with a park and walk program could realize reduced parking requirements for new development that attracts new businesses, space for other attractive development opportunities by minimizing parking facilities, a healthier population as more people walk, repeat business, and reduced congestion and pollution related to cruising for parking in front of businesses.

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