School bike path ready for comment
Spearheaded by Rolling Agenda, a local group of bicycling enthusiasts, a full-blown plan to create outdoor recreational spaces for all Jamestown residents to value and use is ready to present to the School Committee and Town Council.
According to Julie Kallfelz and Samira Hakki, Rolling Agenda's secretary and treasurer respectively, the project started three years ago as an effort to improve bicycle and walking access to Jamestown schools. Shortly thereafter, various organizations joined the cyclists and the project blossomed into a community-wide effort that expanded the plan to address problems and make improvements on and around Jamestown school grounds.
The additional groups included the Jamestown recreation, planning, and school departments, town soccer and baseball associations, the tree warden, and the local senior citizens' association, with support from Rotary and other local service clubs, Kallfelz said.
Kallfelz mentioned that Town Administrator Bruce Keiser, Town Planner Lisa Bryer, and Rolling Agenda chairwoman Carol Nelson-Lee have worked closely since the project's inception. Their cooperation, and that of the Narragansett Tribe, has been key to the success of the effort.
Kallfelz outlined the scope of the project by saying that the coalition looked at current conditions and future needs, and compiled a list of goals, that although ambitious, includes improving the condition of the town athletic fields, used by school and town recreational soccer and baseball teams as well as school gym classes; improving the ease and safety of bike and pedestrian access to the schools and athletic fields; citing and installing fitness trail equipment that has already been purchased by the school's PTO.
The plan will also create walking paths through and around the school grounds for use by students, school staff, and all residents; design and install playground equipment at the middle school; improve the wooded area between the two school buildings, known as the "Town Forest," which had previously contained an outdoor classroom; and improve car and bus traffic flow and parking around the school buildings.
The magnitude of the project was daunting, but the coalition agreed that the only rational and cost-effective approach to bringing the concept to fruition was to engage professional expertise to guide planning, coordination, and execution, Kallfelz said.
"They began by conducting an area study to develop a comprehensive plan," Kallfelz explained. "Generous donations from local organizations such as the Jamestown PTO, Rotary Club, Jamestown Soccer and Baseball Associations, the Rhode Island Foundation through Greenways Alliance of Rhode Island, and BankNewport provided the funding," she added.
Kallfelz said that Gates Leighton Assoc., an East Providence landscape architectural firm was contracted by the coalition through an RFP process to assess conditions in the target area, meet with stake-holders to define needs, hold public input sessions, and refine ideas. Gates Leighton presented its most recent draft of the plan to the coalition in early February and the "Best Land Use Plan for School Grounds and Neighborhood" became a reality.
Kallfelz said that the comprehensive plan includes all the aforementioned amenities as well as approximately one mile of walking and bike trails with curbed sidewalks and paved bike paths within the area from the Four Corners to Melrose and Arnold Avenues, and from North Main Road and Arnold Avenue to Melrose and Narragansett Avenue.
Kallfelz mentioned that the state Department of Transportation committed to building a bike path from the Route 138 overpass along the west side of North Main Road to Arnold Avenue, providing a safe biking connection between the North End, downtown, and school neighborhood.
The Best Land Use Plan will be presented in the next few weeks to a joint meeting of the School Committee and Town Council, Kallfelz and Hakki said.
Upon approval, Rolling Agenda and the other coalition members will launch a significant fund-raising effort that will last throughout the spring and summer with hopes of raising enough funding to "make at least several significant improvements over the summer," Kallfelz said.
She also said that efforts will include applying for various state, federal, and private grants, soliciting support from local individuals, organizations, and businesses, and requesting funding from the Town Council and School Committee.
On a positive note, Kallfelz noted that the Town Planner successfully applied for a $250,000 grant from the Federal Safe Routes to School Program that has been approved and will apply toward construction costs.
The coalition's proposed improvements will dramatically enhance the number and quality of recreational opportunities for all Jamestown residents, provide safe routes for bikers, pedestrians, and drivers on and near the school grounds, and make overall better use of the grounds surrounding the town's schools. Just as significant, it is a testament to what a community can accomplish when it bands together to pursue a common vision, Kallfelz said.
Anyone who wants to make a donation or get more information can call Carol Nelson-Lee, at 423- 2967 or e-mail to nl@nelsonlee. com.