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Plans, trails and bicycles

WORTHINGTON -- The city of Worthington is in the process of developing an active living plan to help make the city more pedestrian-friendly. The first public meeting to gather community input will be from 5:15 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Worthin...

WORTHINGTON - The city of Worthington is in the process of developing an active living plan to help make the city more pedestrian-friendly. The first public meeting to gather community input will be from 5:15 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Worthington Fire Hall.

In a continued effort to improve infrastructure, connectivity and citizen health within the community, the local Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) committee - along with the SHIP Cottonwood, Jackson and Nobles organization - have recommended both developing an active living plan for Worthington and getting the public involved in the process. The effort would be in coordination with the Southwest Regional Development Commission (SRDC), and include developing a more walkable and bicycle-friendly community through strategic pedestrian and cycling improvements.

“At this first meeting, we’re working with our planning team to try and get as much information from the community for pedestrian safety,” said Drew Hage, development planner for the Southwest Regional Development Commission. “We don’t want to guide the conversation; we want the public to guide the conversation to what they feel are the priorities and issues.”
SHIP committee member Aaron Hagen echoed Hage’s thoughts and said community involvement is a huge priority for SHIP.
“The SHIP group has people from relatively different sectors of Worthington, and they’ve been helpful and supportive, but we want to get a wide range of opinions and feedback from the community,” Hagen said.
The first public meeting will identify gaps in the sidewalks and trails network, problem intersections, traffic and congestion issues, teen driving issues and other meaningful input regarding walking and biking that community members feel are priorities.
There will also be a second meeting in April to talk about more specific goals of the plan.
“This is the issue identification meeting, and then at the next meeting we’ll talk about more specific goals and bring up solutions,” Hage said.
Hage added that the active living plan is similar to the Safe Routes to School grants. Instead of being concentrated to one area, however, this plan can address any walking or biking issues that occur throughout the city.
“This will hopefully help guide the city’s traffic safety commission in Worthington (too),” Hage said. “They recently got funded for the mini grants for Safe Routes to School (SRTS), so that will change their direction on what crosswalks should and should not be identified.”
Hage said Thursday’s public meeting should also guide the commission to address pedestrian infrastructure.
The plan comes with no cost to the city. Once Worthington has a definitive active living plan, it could potentially lead to other grant and funding opportunities.
“As soon as we have an active living plan, chances will increase for MnDOT to use that plan and consider it when redoing streets and roads,” Hagen said. “A lot of it depends on future road developments and redevelopments, but having an active living plan impacts discussions on what the city and state decide as they redo roads and walkways.”
Hage said active living plans have been successful in other towns near the Worthington area, and explained his experience with Lakefield and its plan.
“Lakefield used the (active living) plan along with Safe Routes to School plan,” Hage said. “When funding came available, I got to write the grant as well, and now a trail is going to be constructed.”
According to Hage, this trail will connect Pleasantview Elementary in Lakefield with the South City Park and the residential area in the southern part of the city.
Hage said multiple projects were identified in the planning stages during the Lakefield project. The trail, though, was the project the city decided to pursue, while the goal is for that community to identify additional projects that could be completed.
For those that are unable to attend the meeting, Hage encourages them to make comments on the Wiki mapping site where the user is able to highlight certain roads, intersections or areas of town that they feel could be improved.
Visit wikimapping.com/wikimap/Worthington-SRTS-Plan.html to provide comments, or fill out the community survey that was recently sent out in the Worthington Public Utility bill.

Related Topics: HEALTH
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