Architects unveil school neighborhood pathways design
The Jamestown Schools and surrounding neighborhood are flagged for a facelift, or so the area residents hope. Consultants offered a plan for transportation route improvements in the district at a presentation in the new town hall on Oct. 10.
Landscape architects Arek Galle and Randall Collins of Gates, Leighton and Associates, presented renderings of the neighborhood upgrade, and talked about design objectives. Aims included improving access and safety to the school campus, maximizing efficiency of athletic fields, and improving car and bus traffic. Enhancement recommendations extended from Narragansett Avenue, south of the school property, as far as Arnold Avenue to the north.
Part of the consultants' job is to look at traffic problems and erosion problems, and create a system that would address those issues, Galle noted. The consultants agreed that the area in general needs more structure, but also agreed not to propose changes in the bus loading area. "The bus drop off seems to work well. The speed issue is something we need to pay more attention to," Galle said.
The consultants looked at how students get to the neighborhood, and how sidewalks functioned with pedestrians and vehicles. After witnessing student traffic flow, the team recommended upgrades to sidewalks, additional crosswalks, and installations of handicapped access areas. "A lot of kids utilize Watson Avenue. Both sides could use sidewalks," Collins suggested. A new sidewalk on the north side of Arnold Avenue was also suggested.
A question arose from the audience about installing speed bumps in the area. Collins noted that some communities do not like speed bumps because of the maintenance issues, such as plowing and drainage concerns. Nevertheless, the experts said that speeders needed to be addressed, and that other options beyond speed bumps could considered. One improvement offered was paved crosswalks, installed into the surface of a road. Galle noted the textural difference would train regular commuters to slow down in anticipation of the change.
The advisors noted that no path or trail exists between the schools. The plan showed an arrangement of boulders to mark an outdoor classroom setting. The ring of stones goes back to tribal times, they added. Clayton Carlisle, a volunteer representing the soccer association, suggested using boulders with signs on a proposed fitness trail to designate stations with fitness apparatus.
Close consideration would be given to tribal burial grounds, the team pointed out. They continued to explore ways of mounting equipment "to avoid excavation." The consultants also noted the plan called for restoration of playing fields.
As the discussion moved toward maintenance of new facilities, Galle held up a map which outlined where responsibilities lay for maintenance, whether they are with the school, the town, or another party. "The process has helped us identify who is responsible for what," Town Planner Lisa Bryer commented.
In 2005, Rolling Agenda started out as a bicycle advocacy group, Bryer noted before the presentation. Their main focus was to build bike routes on the island. They addressed significant bicycling issues on the island, and school commuting. "If we can get the kids to school safely by bicycle, then it makes it safe for everyone else as well," she said.
The focus on safety in and around the schools became a pedestrian issue, Bryer continued.
Rolling Agenda evolved into an active community coalition, with the baseball association, soccer association, parent-teacher organization (PTO), and other volunteers. She emphasized that many local considerations needed to be accounted for as the project progressed. "We needed to involve stakeholders in the neighborhood," she said, adding. "The Narragansett (Native American) Tribe is a big stakeholder."
The organization raised over $30,000, presented their preliminary plan to the town, and hired the consultants to create the plan. "Then we start seeking funds to pay for this project," Bryer said. Some money could come from the state, she added.
The town is currently awaiting word from the Rhode Island Division of Planning about the approval of a grant from the federally funded Safe Routes to School improvement program. A nod from the state could mean up to $250,000 in allocation for infra-structure improvements on the island.
Carol Nelson-Lee, chairwoman of Rolling Agenda, said the meeting was a good example of inviting everyone in town to participate in a planning process. She praised the residents who offered input for the project, noting that valuable ideas emerged from the discussion. One solution to the traffic congestion on Lawn Avenue was to make the road one way with sidewalks. "I'm really excited," she added about the project.
Carlisle also expressed pleasure with the plan. "Rolling Agenda and the various stakeholders have worked hard to identify the critical areas which need solutions or improvements and are getting very creative yet realistic design suggestions from GLA," he commented.
Samira Hakki, an active volunteer for Rolling Agenda, noted that a high number of Lawn Avenue residents turned out for the presentation, but few represented the side streets. "It would be good to get more neighbors from the feeder streets involved," she suggested. Hakki also noted that no one representing the school attended the meeting, and expressed hope that the school district would become more officially involved.