Approach to neighborhood improvements refreshing

The city of Columbus and Reach Healthy Communities want to improve health conditions for residents. They consider improving roads and neighborhoods to be an important component of that goal, to aid walkers, runners and bicyclists.

Specifically, Taylor Road on the northeast side and Westenedge Drive on the north side have been targeted.

Healthy Communities and the city want to make sure that the most important stakeholders are involved in the project process from the get-go — the neighborhood residents themselves.

Nationally recognized healthy road design expert Mark Fenton has been working with the city and Healthy Communities in planning health-friendly infrastructure improvements. That’s been done by facilitating neighborhood meetings, and the approach seems to have struck a chord.

What’s refreshing about this approach is that the residents aren’t being presented a plan conceived without their input. Rather, the residents are being asked to think of ways to make their neighborhoods more health-friendly, and their input is driving the changes that will occur.

For example, Westenedge residents supported installation of an 8- to 11-foot-wide seamless People Trail from Blackwell Park to Northside Middle School, and miniature roundabouts at intersections of Rocky Ford Road with Laurel and Locus drives. Taylor Road ideas centered on installation of better crosswalks for children’s use.

Although a lot more work remains, especially engineering the plans for the improvements, a critical step forward was taken because the desires of the direct stakeholders — the neighborhood residents — were incorporated from the start by the city and Reach Healthy Communities.

That’s a great way to ensure buy-in by residents for changes, while at the same time working toward a goal of improving health conditions.

The city and Reach Healthy Communities are to be commended for taking a different approach, and the neighborhood residents deserve kudos for participating in the meetings and taking an active role to make improvements possible.