Recently I had a chance to sit down and talk with seven different communities that are partnering with Missouri Livable Streets. In talking with them, I learned why they needed livable streets, what benefits their community hoped to gain, and what other communities could learn from their journeys. In my first post, I share what I learned from Bowling Green, a small community in Pike County in northeastern Missouri. Please be sure to check the Missouri Livable Streets blog for future posts from the other communities, too.
After I sat down with Dan Lang, the one thing that I took away from the interview was how his past experience as an urban planner has helped him realize how much Livable Streets would complement his community.
Prior to his present position as city administrator of Bowling Green, Lang worked as an urban planner, and back then, Bowling Green was one of his client communities. As part of his job, he did a comprehensive plan for Bowling Green and quickly saw the need for Livable Streets.
“There were a number of aspects related to livable communities or livable streets philosophy that came out of that planning exercise,” Lang said. “Bowling Green is a small, somewhat rural community. I have noticed since I have been here that there is a continuing and renewed interest in walking.”
Fast-forward a few years and when Lang became city administrator, he started to put those ideas, observations and plans into action. After joining the Missouri Livable Streets mailing list and hearing about the opportunity to partner with the project team in 2014, Lang quickly put forward the application for Bowling Green. The town was selected as one of seven communities to receive technical assistance and other information for considering or implementing Livable Streets policies.
Lang sees the assistance well timed to what is happening in his community. “I see a lot of people participating in walking: we have a very well used walking path in our city park… there’s a lot of interest here of people getting out and walking the community and bicycling to some extent.”
Among the challenges that Lang faces, he shared, “It’s difficult to get enough people in the community to know about it, to support an effort, and to move forward with the project. I think education is the key. And I think, too, in most communities, the impact of the cost associated with doing things within your community, whether that’s with streets, or construction of bicycle paths, there is always a funding side to that and can be an issue.”
Acknowledging the challenges, Lang’s commitment is still steady. “I want them to know that it is an achievable policy. If there is a way for us to incorporate [Livable Streets] into our design criteria, or for other communities to do the same thing, then it warrants taking a closer look.”
To learn more about Missouri Livable Streets and how to become involved with your own community, visit http://livablestreets.missouri.edu.