Walk Leaders: Led by Dan Rice, Leianne Neff Heppner and Suzie Graham
Text by: Suzie Graham
Photographs by: Phyllis Jividen
Akron hosted three walks, all of which occurred in the Downtown area. Our morning walk traveled along the Towpath Trail in the morning drizzle. The small size of the group allowed for constructive conversation and critical thinking about how we use the path, how we identify the path, and how users interact with vehicular traffic. The passion of the group fueled the ongoing discussion the Downtown Akron Partnership has in process with local officials about the potential for utilizing signage, sustainable greening and public art to help orient and welcome traffic. When our group was joined by a mallard duck, the conversation veered toward peaceful coexistence with our local wildlife, the improvement of the water quality over time, and the need to consider implementing landscaping changes to dissuade the growing population of the Downtown Akron Canada Goose.
After a heavy rainfall, our four o’clock tour brought in the sunshine with a focus on the history of the area once known as North Akron. Our exceptionally long and narrow Downtown corridor is largely due to the development of the canal and combination of what once were two separate cities. The wonderful tour led our group through highlights of historic architecture and business development in Downtown.
The six o’clock hour rounded out the day with a group of 30 joining me for a tour of our arts and culture district. Manouevering our way through the pockets of development, we spent some time observing the Main St/State Rt. 59 corridor. With the high speed of traffic and multilane roads, this stretch of sidewalk feels dangerous and intimidating for pedestrians and is not easily accessible to the fun, artistic, historic, and colorful Northside District. We discussed utilizing streetscaping to create a more walkable access path. The stretch leads to, as Jason Segedy announced, “the most dangerous intersection for vehicles in Summit County.” If it is that dangerous for vehicles, what does that mean for pedestrians?
Observations included the need for repainting the crosswalks and addressing the far-too short timing of the pedestrian signal. Once across the street, pedestrians must choose to traverse over uneven grass and railroad or walk a long block up a steep incline to access the district.
Knowing the cultural and natural vibrancy throughout the Northside District, our walk created a greater understanding of the challenges that face us as we try to connect more people to these unique and valuable amenities.