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Editorial: Grassroots assessment major step for walkability

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Last year, members of Restore Old Town Greenwood, a downtown revitalization group, walked through the area and noted crumbling sidewalks, uneven ramps and faded crosswalk lines. The goal was to make the heart of the city more walkable.

They asked the city to make multiple improvements, including updating sidewalks and crosswalks and moving a sign that was low enough to bump a person’s head. The sign got moved, and this summer the city is planning to paint fresh crosswalk stripes and put in new curb ramps at Brewer and Main streets.

This summer, the group is organizing a similar stroll, likely near Isom Elementary School on Meridian Street. They’re looking for crumbling sidewalks, faded or no pavement paint at crosswalks and sidewalks that aren’t wheelchair-accessible.

Children from the elementary school and nearby middle school, as well as neighborhood children, use the street to reach an ice cream shop, Old City Park, the Greenwood Public Library and the city splash pad.

John Michael Jones, Restore Old Town Greenwood president, said the concern is whether the sidewalks and crosswalks are safe for the children who keep the parks and ice cream shop busy. Children gather at the ice cream shop and have a narrow sidewalk to line up on. Jones said he remembers seeing a child fall at the fence by the street and end up partially in the road.

After the study this summer, the group will ask the city for fixes.

Jones said group members also will keep their eyes open for other potential projects, such as walls of buildings where murals could be painted. The organization works to beautify and repair the old town area and encourage business growth. They have planned downtown cleanup days and encouraged residents to shop at local businesses.

The walkability studies are useful because residents are doing the work to figure out what they want and need and then letting the city know what their concerns are. Their efforts help officials understand residents’ priorities.

Seeing the city respond to the group’s list of street and sidewalk projects is encouraging. We hope this newest survey brings an equally positive response.

We commend Restore Old Town Greenwood for taking the initiative to assess and pinpoint local problems. This kind of grassroots effort not only leads to physical improvements, it enhances civic engagement — in both cases making the city a better place to live.

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