Sunday afternoon, a small group of people, some on foot, some on bikes, marched around McMillen Park to promote healthy living, but they also had another purpose.
A group called the Urban Trail Project wanted to drive home a point. If you live on the southeast side, there is no safe route to get to the Rivergreenway.
Oh, the city has made efforts to make various parts of town more bicycle friendly. It has designated bicycle lanes on Rudisill Boulevard, letting people ride from South Anthony Boulevard to greenway trails at Foster Park.
But you don’t want your children riding their bikes on that route, said Diane Rogers, who is affiliated with Urban Trails.
What the area really needs is a good north-south route that will let people who live in the area go north to downtown or south, which would give them access to Southgate Plaza and the Southtown Crossing area, which has Wal-Mart, Menards and other businesses.
Living on the southeast side, there’s no safe way to get anywhere if you don’t have transportation, that is, a car, Rogers says.
It isn’t as though the city has ignored the southeast side. It has miles of planned Rivergreenway and plenty more miles of trail that have been proposed in that part of the city.
Ultimately, it is supposed to be possible to get from one extreme part of the city to another using the Rivergreenway, including from Waynedale, all the way to New Haven.
One proposal is to create a path for use by bicycles, pedestrian and wheelchairs that stretches along Anthony Boulevard from the area just east of downtown to Tillman Road.
That’s where the rub is.
Anthony is certainly a direct route. It stretches from IPFW on the north to Southtown on the south. It crosses plenty of other main drags, including Jefferson and Washington boulevards and Rudisill and Oxford Street and Pettit Avenue.
But Anthony, being a main drag, is busy and noisy, Rogers says. It’s full of busy cross streets and driveways.
Who wants to go for a peaceful walk or ride along such a noisy street? Rogers asks.
The people with Urban Trails prefer Hanna Street, which also stretches from downtown to Tillman, giving people access to Southtown. It’s a quieter street, Rogers says, and it’s not nearly as busy.
Oh, she knows that the city says there’s more space to put in a path along Anthony.
She and others, she says, are just trying to provide a voice for the southeast side and make sure any paths that are developed are suitable.
It’s easy to understand the position of both Urban Trails and the city. Fitting trails into areas that were designed and built 70 or more years ago, when no one rode bikes and only weirdos jogged, is a tall order.
At lest the Urban Trail Project is trying to get its voice heard now, while trails in that area are still in the proposal stage.