Brittney Raby – Staff Writer
“On Saturday, March 12, we will be holding a community walking event to start at 11 a.m. at Town Square and ending around 12:30 p.m,” said Franklin Town Planner Justin Setser. “We hope to see another good turnout for that event.”
The community walking event will be one to two mile round trip around Franklin and will help town officials determine priority areas and areas of need along the town’s streets and sidewalks.
The town of Franklin is developing a bicycle and pedestrian plan to make bicycling and walking safer and more convenient for residents and visitors of all ages and abilities. Once completed, the plan will be used to guide future investments in on- and off-road bicycling and pedestrian facilities and support town programs that encourage alternative transportation options.
Last week, an open house invited the public to provide the town with input on problem areas or spots in town that could be made more walker/biker friendly. “I think it went great, we counted about 55 adults at the open house,” said Setser. “The few I have run into have told me they really enjoyed it and the information made them think about items they haven’t before.”
Both events are part of the town’s broader vision to improve downtown. While improving Franklin’s streets and sidewalks is a longterm goal for Franklin leaders, the new town board have each made access to downtown a top priority and while running for office, promised voters to tackle the issue sooner rather than later. “The main objective is to develop a plan that will address connectivity, safety and sound planning for the future of Franklin,” said Setser. “We need to fill in the gaps where ever they might be. We need as much community involvement as possible to show the need for this plan.”
During the open house, attendees worked with J.M. Teague Engineering, a consulting firm based in Waynesville helping the town work toward improving downtown, to plot out courses and identify areas for improvement.
“If we make our communities safe for eight-year-olds and 80-year olds, if we develop a plan to meet those two populations, then the rest of us can take care of ourselves,” said Kristy Carter with J.M. Teague Engineering.
Town maps were laid out on tables throughout Tartan Hall and attendees placed stickers on portions of the town that they use often for walking or bicycling.
While improving existing areas downtown was a focus of the open house, one issue that was discussed is access to town via walking or biking. Roadways leading to Franklin are not friendly to bikers or walkers and implementing a change on the roads quickly became a significant point of concern in moving Franklin toward a more pedestrian friendly town.
Over the next month, Setser said that the town will continue to solicit community input on how to implement a comprehensive plan for the downtown area. “The next steps are to continue collecting surveys for another month,” said Setser. “Plus to continue gathering info on wiki map page.”
In addition to the community walkabout on Saturday, March 12, a Community Bike Ride is scheduled for Saturday, April 2.
For more information on the process, visit bikewalkfranklin.wordpress.com or look for updates on Town of Franklin Planning Department Facebook page.