A Greenwood City Council member said she remembers letting her children ride to the city pool during the summer.
That’s when the pool was downtown, near the large Old Town residential community boasting lots of homes, sidewalks and short crossings at downtown intersections.
But now the city’s new aquatic center, Freedom Springs, is at Freedom Park; and Linda Gibson is concerned about whether kids, teens and seniors who don’t drive will be able to walk or ride bicycles safely to the pool when it opens May 23.
Freedom Park is within a mile of five large subdivisions and a large mobile home community. While trails and sidewalks exist in most spots along major routes leading to the park, traffic on busy streets — including Smith Valley, Averitt, Stop 18 and Worthsville roads — is a concern. Several large subdivisions north and west of the park are more than a mile away, which can be a long trek for youngsters.
In an effort to help more people get to Freedom Springs, the city is working on a plan to establish a summer bus route that would make a few stops at centrally located places such as downtown, the community center or schools and then take passengers to the pool. Nothing has been finalized yet, but Gibson said she is hopeful the bus route could make seven or eight pickups. She also would like to find a local nonprofit group or businesses to sponsor the cost.
Gibson, whose council district represents most of the residential area bounded by Madison Avenue, Smith Valley Road and Emerson Avenue, is concerned that those eastside residents who had easy access to the old pool now might be cut off.
“How are you going to get those kids across (U.S.) 31? That’s not where we want kids,” Gibson said.
Greenwood officials had discussed several locations for the pool before deciding on Freedom Park. Alternatives such as keeping it downtown, moving it to Craig Park or even building near County Line Road and Interstate 65 were talked about. But Freedom Park was selected due to the amount of available land that the city already owned.
Some newer subdivisions have been built around Averitt Road, but Freedom Park sits in an area that is still somewhat undeveloped. Almost all of the land southwest of the park is still fields, and the main entrance to the park is about three-quarters of a mile south of Smith Valley Road.
Although there are trails and sidewalks in the area, you might find a sidewalk on only one side of the road or hit an occasional gap. This spring, a contractor is putting in a new trail along the west side of Averitt Road and then along the main entrance boulevard into the park, which will fill in a major gap from the end of an existing sidewalk to the pool, parks superintendent Rob Taggart said. When completed, that trail will connect the park all the way to Smith Valley Road, he said.
The city does have some sidewalk gaps on the south side of Smith Valley Road. Cutsinger Road, which is south of Freedom Park and leads to some subdivisions along Honey Creek Road, has no sidewalks or trails.
U.S. 31 is a major barrier because it is so wide and has so much traffic it’s not an ideal crossing for pedestrians or cyclists, Gibson said. The city is working on plans to run a trail under the highway near downtown and would like to build a pedestrian bridge over U.S. 31, but both plans are years away.
A summer bus route that would run for about two months would help get more people from all over the city to the pool, but discussions are ongoing, Taggart said.
If the city could reach an agreement for bus service, Gibson envisions a fare of $1 per ride, with most of the operational cost covered by a sponsor. Or the city might be able to work out some sort of bus pass, where families could sign up and provide information such as name, home address and contact information in case of emergencies, she said. Age restrictions could be a possibility to limit single riders to teens, and younger children would need to be accompanied by an adult if they’re going to ride, she said.
The city will continue to look at options to fill in trail gaps and cater to people who want to walk or ride to the park, Mayor Mark Myers said. The access issues being talked about now existed even when the pool was downtown.
The city did get a new crosswalk painted on Smith Valley Road at U.S. 31 and put up pedestrian signals, which Myers thinks would be the best way at this time for people to safely cross the eight lanes of traffic.
“(U.S.) 31 has always been a barrier. Before it was kids on the west side trying to get downtown,” Myers said.
Freedom Park is somewhat off the main routes of Greenwood, Myers said, but he expects it could became a major hotspot for residential and new commercial growth in the future. Greenwood Community Schools has proposed building a new middle school near the park, and the aquatic center should make subdivision developers more interested in available land around Cutsinger Road, he said.
Stones Crossing and Worthsville roads will become more well-traveled as the city continues to upgrade that area as an east-west corridor between State Road 135 and Interstate 65, he added.
If new subdivisions get built, the aquatic center could quickly become the center of a new residential area filled with families who would be greatly inclined to use the pool and park, Myers said.
“All of those things will promote growth in that area,” he said. “There’s a lot of new interest in that area.”
“(U.S.) 31 has always been a barrier. Before it was kids on the west side trying to get downtown.”
Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers, on the highway limiting easy access by pedestrians and bicyclists to the Freedom Park pool