Creating walkable communities
MUNCY – Long overdue, this planning project got well underway last Wednesday night as several borough leaders and municipality residents met with representatives from SEDA- COG Community Resource Center in the cafeteria at Muncy Valley Hospital to discuss planning walkways and bike paths to make the Hughesville and Muncy areas a healthier and more desirable place to live.
Brian Auman, Landscape Architect and Principal Planner for the Community Resource Center of SEDA-Council of Governments led the discussion to a group of concerned citizens from Hughesville, Wolf Township, Muncy, and Muncy Township.
School officials, council members and business association members were sent an announcement last week to share four work sessions with interested residents on helping with the vision of producing and planning a “walkable community” project in the Muncy and Hughesville areas, according to Auman.
Christine A. Ballard, Vice President of Operations and chief administrator of Muncy Valley Hospital announced that Susqhehanna Health and Muncy Valley Hospital will be a host partner for this worthwhile project. “There is a health benefit to improve the health status of the communities,” said Ballard.
The Muncy/ Hughesville area in Lycoming County is one of two pilot multi-municipal sites that will address impediments and strategies to create a safe, walkable, and bicycle friendly community. Berwick will also be a part of this project assisted by Geisinger Health System, Berwick Health and Wellness Fund and regional universities.
A mapping exercise was introduced at the first meeting engaging attendees to identify key destinations in groups from three different aerial maps of the Muncy Community, the Hughesville Community and the Regional Connections to both communities.
The main purpose was to create opportunities for connecting paths as well as identifying existing connections and barriers for walking and biking to key destinations. Some of these frequent stops would be hospitals, schools, banks, restaurants, downtown stores, and parks. The groups used colorful stickers to mark the “hot spots” on the maps. A cross was used for placing key destinations and an x for the barriers, while the community resource planners recorded the exact names and locations on charts.
A collaborative effort led by SEDA-COG, Creating Safe, Walkable and Healthy Communities is a way to facilitate interaction among community residents, leaders, planners, agencies, public health advocates, and healthcare providers with linked interests and responsibilities for community and transportation planning.
Overall, the planning program, which is funded through the Appalachian Regional Commission, will raise awareness in the area about active, healthy living and the potential for integrating walking and bicycling in everyday life. Regional residents will be encouraged to participate in a result-monitored healthy living program. SEDA-COG stated that the project will use linked websites and regional media to expand outreach and participation in related planning and programming.
The second meeting is scheduled for April 8 and will focus on identifying community enhancements. Participants will be asked to develop alternative solutions to improve safe walking and bike paths and provide safe accesses to towns. Prior to the meeting, SEDA-COG planners will be visiting the identified trouble spots from the destination mapping exercise and document the challenging areas for community input.