By Beth Heller
In April our blog explored person-to-person connectedness as an integral component of community well-being. But connectedness is way more than just a touchy-feelie concept, it’s also a concrete strategy (literally) for building stronger communities. And, from our perspective, there’s no better month to talk about the streets, roads and paths in our local community than May.
Why May? Because May is National Bike Month and conversations about biking always spur a closer look at the ways communities share their streets. Is it a local priority to make it safer, more convenient and more enjoyable for community members to use multiple modes of transportation to and from the places they want to go? If so, how does a community start the process of changing from a car-centric environment to one that values walking, pedaling, rolling and public transportation?
A Shared Vision
If there’s one thing last December’s Fox River Trail decision demonstrated, it’s that this is a conversation that Greater Green Bay is ready to have. The campaign to allocate resources to plowing the Fox River trail opened a floodgate of local support, and helped form new coalitions between groups with a shared vision of active, connected living. This shared vision empowered public servants to advance agendas, form committees and turn the wheels of government to create change.
Can we call this momentum? We think so.
Case in point, in April, Alderman Mark Steuer called upon the Green Bay Parks Committee to explore connecting three of our area’s paved trails (Fox River Trail, East River Trail and the west-side railroad trail). Beyond the immediate benefits to the local biking and walking community, there’s also the possibility to connect these trails with others, including Howard’s Mountain Bay Trail, that would make it possible to bike from Green Bay all the way to Wausau.
Sounds world class, doesn’t it?
Like anything good, there are miles to travel before a vision can become a reality. At the recent Parks Committee meeting, City support for further exploration of path unification was strong but cautious. Obstacles exist, including right-of-way disputes on commercially owned land, neighborhood easements and the “little” problem of crossing the Fox River.
Facing those sorts of real-life challenges, it’s easy for a conversation to stall and other, easier agendas to take precedence. And that’s where community activation becomes vital. If community members become more vocal and engaged with the issue, our community government will be forced to truly dig in, think hard and entertain creative, innovative solutions.
If you want to get more involved with the evolution of Greater Green Bay’s transportation system, make May the month you take the first step. United under a shared vision, we cleared snow from the Fox River Trail to extend its use throughout the Wisconsin winter season. Together, we believe our committed, engaged community will continue finding ways to connect and leverage our local assets. We invite you to join the movement!
To Wausau and beyond!