With the Marietta area exceeding the national average for obesity, it seems this would be the most appropriate time to make our beautiful city as walker friendly as possible.
Marietta's citywide sidewalk survey started three years ago as the City of Marietta and many volunteers teamed up. Completion of the survey is having new energy pumped into it for completion by Make A Difference Day in October.
The survey of all 900 blocks of Marietta is long overdue. The systematic examination of the sidewalks is the first in the city's 223 years.
Why is a sidewalk survey important? It is important because everyone has their own story about a broken, damaged, overgrown or non-existent sidewalk.
In my family, it was my mother who tripped over a raised expansion joint on Greene Street. She was visiting from Dayton and ended up making family history by breaking the first bone in 80 years.
I know you have your own stories of falls, injuries and areas you just couldn't walk because of overhanging limbs, weeds, broken concrete, bushes or anyone of a number of other easily correctable obstacles.
There never before has been a uniform examination with documentation of sidewalk conditions so a responsible plan for prioritizing repairs can be developed.
Today, those with physical disabilities are unable to travel many city sidewalks because of disrepair, damage, overgrowth and construction. Children walk in the street to school because sidewalks flood or are unwalkable. Walkers and runners often are forced into the street or to the other side of the street in search of travelable sidewalk. Unfortunately, those in wheelchairs, using walkers or with other disabilities don't always have that option.
Although the city has worked for years to build handicapped accessible ramps at corners and pedestrian crossings using federal Community Develop Block Grant Funds, often the sidewalks in between are in haphazard condition so pedestrians can't get to the accessible crossings.
Ohio law provides that the property owner is responsible for sidewalk repair and maintenance. It is, however, all of our responsibility to make sure we all have the same opportunities to live in a safe, pedestrian friendly community.
Repairing sidewalks will encourage walking and burning calories rather than gasoline, provide opportunities for neighbors to be neighborly, increase safety by pedestrians paying attention to neighborhoods as they walk and overall improve our quality of life. Safe, walkable sidewalks also will encourage families to visit Marietta as tourists or perhaps to settle here.
One of the city's wonderful assets is tree lined residential streets with beautiful homes and walkable sidewalks.
Volunteer efforts to develop a uniform sidewalk evaluation with the goal of making the city more accessible to everyone was started more than five years ago. About three years ago, the city development department was aided by a small army of volunteers who began training and then surveying. About 60 volunteers - including Boy Scouts, members of the Presbyterian and other churches, Marietta Rowing and Cycling Club - completed about 30 percent of the surveying. The information has been processed by volunteers in the O'Neill Senior Center Retired Senior Volunteer Program and now exists in a city spread sheet allowing an analysis of the good, bad and ugly sidewalks.
In an effort to complete the Herculean task, Marietta College Leadership Program and individual students have been asked to assist with the surveying of the remaining 500 or so blocks. Any other community members - from inside and outside the city - are welcome to assist with the surveying effort.
I will be speaking with the Mayor's Disabilities Advisory Board on Thursday, July 21 about restarting the surveying. On Friday, July 22, surveying again will begin. The process will kick in on a large scale basis in early September after Marietta College students return for the Fall semester and hopefully wrap up by Make A Difference day in October. Once the surveying is completed, the work will begin to create a list of priorities for getting damaged sidewalks repaired.
Anyone who is interested in assisting with the surveying effort and follow up repair plan is welcome. Youth groups and seniors are especially welcome to assist because they are two of the groups most likely to benefit from walkable sidewalks. Eagle Scout Kevin Doebrich coordinated the surveying of 55 blocks to earn his program's highest honor.
Plenty of opportunities exist for people who care to become involved in making Marietta an even more livable city. Surveying a couple blocks can take as little as an hour.
Even the largest projects begin with a single step. Won't you become involved?
Wouldn't it be nice if Marietta had "Most Walkable City" signs to go with the "Tree City" signs?
Roger G. Kalter lives in Marietta. He is a Democratic candidate for Marietta City Council's 1st Ward.