When developers build new subdivisions and shopping centers in Garner, they must include sidewalks so people don’t need to walk in the street or follow a dirt path along a busy road.
But that wasn’t always the case, and now the growing town of 32,000 residents is developing a strategy for filling the gaps in its sidewalk network.
It begins with a survey that asks residents where they’d like to walk and what keeps them from doing it. Town officials say the results will help them determine which streets and roads need sidewalks sooner than later.
“Obviously it’s not realistic to put down sidewalks literally everywhere, but you want to have as complete of a sidewalk network as you possibly can,” said Gaby Lontos-Lawlor, the town’s senior transportation planner. “Sometimes there’s little gaps in sidewalk networks that you can complete so people are able to reach a wider variety of places.”
As in many communities, Garner’s older neighborhoods were built without sidewalks, while once country roads the town has annexed never had them. Working around utility poles, ditches and other obstacles to create walkways is both time consuming and expensive, said Town Council member Gra Singleton.
“We’re playing catch-up,” Singleton said. “But it’s something that people have told us they want, so that’s what we’re trying to.”
Residents of older neighborhoods such as Cloverdale and Greenbrier have long made it known they would like sidewalks, Singleton said.
Meanwhile, dozens of people have responded to the town’s survey with other ideas. Many cite places they want to be able to walk more safely, including sections of Benson, Buffaloe and Vandora Springs roads. Others have more general complaints.
“Garner does not have an adequate pedestrian network,” one person wrote. “Even where there are sidewalks, they end in bizarre places and/or are only on one side of the road. Not safe for me or my kids who go to school, daycare and/or visit grandparents every single day in Garner. It is not a safe place to walk.”
Several people said they would like to see the town better connected to Raleigh and Wake County’s network of greenway trails. This spring, county commissioners agreed to spend $3.5 million to design the Swift Creek Greenway between Lake Wheeler and Lake Benson, and Singleton said the town plans to build a trail that connects to it.
“That’s part of the master plan,” he said. “It just takes time.”
The Garner Pedestrian Plan survey will be live through Monday, July 4. It can be found at publicinput.com/Garner-Pedestrian-Plan.