Monday, September 12, 2011

Local Livable Champion: Shalene Blackwood, Councilwoman of Truesdale in Warren County

If you build it, will they come? In the case of Truesdale, the answer was a resounding yes.

Councilwoman Shalene Blackwood says that when Truesdale received a 2008 Safe Routes to School grant to put in sidewalks and crosswalks around four elementary and middle schools, the community was most interested in making a safer environment for students.

Truesdale Councilwoman and Livable Streets Champion Shalene Blackwood

However, the sidewalks have led to places no one initially imagined.

Before the project, the area around the four schools - Black Hawk Middle, Daniel Boone Elementary, Holy Rosary or Rebecca Boone Elementary School – were mostly cut off for anyone wanting to walk or bike. Many students trying to get to school from home had to navigate the tricky gravel roads, unconnected sidewalks, and railroad crossings. Once they put in the sidewalks, however, things changed.

Blackwood says that Truesdale residents started seeing more than just students on the streets. “I noticed a lot more foot traffic than I did before. You see more people in the evening running. I used to walk through with the stroller and it was a cross country trek. It’s much nicer now.”

Although the new sidewalks are being well used now,  some community members were initially hesitant to support the project. Blackwood remembers that some thought, “‘What do we need a sidewalk there for?’ Nobody thought people would walk there. It surprises people once it’s done.”

Truesdale, Missouri is adjacent to Warrenton, Missouri.
One reason for the hesitation was that  local business owners were nervous about potentially losing parking space to a sidewalk. “Businesses were concerned about their parking,” she said. “But it was a matter of working with whatever their concerns were. Parking now hasn’t seen to be much of a problem.”

Overall, says Blackwood, the benefits are noticeable. “Nobody’s going to walk if there’s not a sidewalk. It makes the whole appeal of the city look better.”

Learn more about sidewalk improvements your community can make through the Safe Routes to School grant program.

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