Brittney Raby – Staff Writer
Franklin leaders have been working for months to develop a comprehensive plan to make the town more bicycle and pedestrian friendly. To ensure that the public is involved in the plan and to get a better insight into citizens’ needs regarding Franklin’s sidewalks and streets, the town will be holding the Bike Walk Franklin open house next week.
“The purpose of the open house is to show the community the options we currently have and to get the ones who attend to think about the future possibilities and priorities,” said Franklin Town Planner Justin Setser. “I hope we can get the creative juices flowing for our residents on what they would like to see in the plan. I have a ton of ideas for places to improve Franklin’s walking and biking options. But this isn’t Justin Setser’s plan, it is going to be Franklin’s plan. We ultimately want to make Franklin safer and easier to walk and bike and identify and connect to areas where people live to where people want to be.”
Town officials discussed moving toward a more walkable downtown at their annual board retreat and wanted to ensure that the sidewalks are well maintained, connected, and easily accessible for residents and visitors. In addition to discussing the details of seeking public input on a comprehensive walk/bike plan for Franklin, town officials decided to move forward with lighting a portion of Depot Street that has sidewalks and is used frequently, but was poorly lit.
“I think the installation of street lights on the Depot Street extension is a great step forward and I’m delighted to see that taking place. In this case, Duke Energy is our partner,” said Franklin Alderman Barbara McRae. “We should interest other civic-minded businesses in partnering with us as we progress.”
Franklin Town Manager Summer Woodard noted that by increasing the walkability in and around Franklin, the town will see economic benefits as well as health benefits for residents and visitors alike.
“There has been studies stating that the millennial generation is going to pass the baby boomer generation in the next couple of years as the largest living generation in the U.S.,” said Setser. “In 2014, the American Planning Association conducted a study on the desires of the millennial generation. In the study over half of N.C. millennials polled stated that they would prefer to live in a walkable community and over two-thirds polled stated that they thought it was important to have convenient transportation options other than driving. So with the largest growing generation stating that walkability is a priority, we as a town and community need to embrace this new idea.”
While the town is developing the plan to make Franklin’s down town more bike and walking friendly, both Woodard and Setser agree that a successful plan cannot be implemented without public input.
“We need people to attend so we know what they want,” said Setser. “Also so they can be informed of future events associated with the plan. There is going to be community biking and walking events planned which we will announce at the open house plus a final open house before the plan goes before the Town Board.”
Franklin Mayor Bob Scott said that soliciting public input is a continuous goal of the current board as the decisions made by Franklin leaders are carried out for the betterment of Franklin residents.
In addition to the bike/walk plan for Franklin, Alderman Brandon McMahan informed his fellow board members at the retreat that he would like the town to look more into “Walk your City,” a gorilla program which was started in Durham, N.C., by a grad student at UNC Chapel Hill. McMahan said Setser made him aware of the program and thought it would be something to benefit Franklin.
“The program was originally stopped by the city in Durham but ultimately adopted by Durham as a city program,” said Setser. “Walk your City is a signage program that can be placed all around town giving directions to your favorite civic, park, or store location by telling you how long of a walk or bike ride it is to that location. I believe it is another great tool to pique the interest of residents and visitors to think about other options to driving.”
The Bike Walk Franklin Open House will be held Tuesday, Feb. 23, at Tartan Hall from 5:30 to 7:30 pm.
“This is the first major step in the plan and we have some interesting activities planned for the attendees,” said Setser. “More can be found about the plan at the towns website www.franklinnc.com then go to the link for Bike Walk Franklin under announcements.”