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We're on the right path for trails use

"We spent a good decade recently, just up the way from a gravel footpath that connects Finch Place with Parfitt Way. Although it certainly wasn't constructed for our particular use, there was a certain convenience to the fact that at one end sat the Review office, and at the other sat the pub. Made it pretty handy at lunch time, and it shaved a good number of minutes off an otherwise roundabout route to the waterfront business district. En route, we often crossed paths with area seniors; many readers are no doubt familiar with the gravel walk, which straddles the property line between two retirement centers.Although we've since moved the office up to Madison Avenue, we thought back to that path during Thursday's Pedestrian Safety Road Show in city hall. There, one of the issues explored by attendees was the loss of informal trails around Winslow and elsewhere, as wooded parcels and fields long traversed by pedestrians and bicyclists give way to buildings and asphalt. Who, they asked, is looking out for those little connections that have long straightened the line between Points A and B?A challenging question, illustrated by two recent missed opportunities.When the Pavilion building went in, negotiations to open a pedestrian link through to the adjacent Navy housing project went nowhere, over concerns that everyone and his dog would go traipsing through to the private Government Way. Next door, a pathway that would have skirted the Packard diner and connected up with Shepard Way - a connection long enjoyed by Grow Avenue residents as a shortcut into town - was nixed by the property owner, who was concerned over liability issues.When we wrote a story on these missed chances two years ago, we were ridiculed by a local developer for overplaying its significance - he suggested that even sidewalks themselves were being extorted from developers in the planning process.To him, we say...no, we can't say that in print. But we will suggest that these failures continue to glare, as with the opening of the new city hall and farmers' market site, Madison Avenue becomes more of a pedestrian destination for neighbors west.By contrast, the new Courtyards on Madison project is an excellent example of what can be accomplished with a little creativity. At the suggestion of city planners, developer Rod McKenzie is including a pedestrian trail - dedicated for public use, not just those who live there - on the project's perimeter. On the west side, it will provide a link with Gideon Park. This foresight should be a model for future projects around town.Elsewhere in this issue, we discuss plans for a comprehensive, non-motorized transportation study. We hope it keeps an eye on our pathways and trails, determine where old linkages can be maintained and new ones created. And that, by ordinance, such paths become a standard feature of future Winslow-area developments.Where planning goes, it's time to put our best feet forward.Addendum: We should also say that Thursday's Road Show event set a good standard for the new city hall building as a nexus for civic activity. The morning-long seminar brought together a good mix of city council members, the mayor and administrator, planning and engineering staffers and citizens.Of the 40 or so in attendance not connected with the city or state agencies, many were new faces.Our hats go off to the Senior Center's Pedestrian Safety Group - Dorothy Bland, Marcia Rudoff and Orabelle Connally - for putting this excellent event together.We'll help you ladies across the street anytime."

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