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Caldwell wants residents to trade 4 wheels for 2Head

City leaders hope new paths will encourage bicycle use, walking

By Lindsay Redifer
Idaho Press Tribune

CALDWELL – Caldwell city leaders want it to be easier for kids and families to get around town on foot or by bicycle and have set goals to make that happen.

The objective is particularly timely because of the development of the city's new Caldwell Family YMCA, which will attract young people from across the city to its new location near Caldwell High School.

Starting this fall, the high school itself will take on ninth-graders, who are more likely to walk to school rather than drive their own cars.

But walking and bike routes around the south part of town are sporadic.

For instance, Indiana Avenue, which leads from the central city to the high school area, has sidewalks on one side of the street but not on the other in places. As a result, pedestrians and cyclists often share the busy road with cars.

Steve Hasson, Caldwell's development services director, said new neighborhood development goals are designed to help overcome that problem.

"We're trying to create a connection between subdivisions," Hasson said, "and do away with this fortress mentality."

Creating neighborhoods
A standard adopted last year calls for "walkable neighborhoods, the preservation of green space areas, connectivity, creation of neighborhood centers and a grid street layout."

Caldwell is interpreting the concept by requiring new neighborhoods to create a footpath going through the heart of each subdivision. Those paths have to connect to other major paths in new neighborhoods.

Parks and recreational areas are being encouraged, as are greenbelts alongside ditches for bike riding.

Any path or greenbelt is also required to have several feet of landscaping on either side to keep walkers and bike riders safe. Among other destinations, the new paths will eventually connect residents to Caldwell High School and the future YMCA.

Safer routes for kids
Patricia Nacarelli, whose 14-year-old son Nick relies on foot and bike power to get around Caldwell, welcomes the city's effort to find safer ways for pedestrians to get around.

"I lived on Cherry off of Indiana, and there are sections that have sidewalks but they'll stop for 50 feet and then you're in the road," she said. "That's an extremely busy street."

She said the main priority should be to concentrate on schools and other areas that get a lot of traffic from young people. She said Nick will go to Caldwell High as a 10th-grader next year and she would feel safer if the city had better ways for walking and biking students to get to campus.

"As it is now, he walks to Jefferson Junior High," she said, "and no matter how he goes, there are places where there are no sidewalks."

YMCA adds importance
The new Caldwell Y will be near the intersection of Indiana and Ustick Road.

Caldwell YMCA campaign spokesman Tod McKay said that Y organizers support any move that would make access to the Y easier. Construction on the $13.5 million youth and family complex is expected to start this year, with completion possible as early as fall 2005.

"The YMCA is just one piece of a bigger puzzle," he said.

McKay said he has not seen many of the plans for the neighborhood paths but has been involved in a bike and walking trail project for Caldwell.

While city developers and council members are excited about the new goals for neighborhoods, there has been some resistance. In some cases, residents of older, more established areas are nervous about how they will be affected.

Change brings concerns
In some cases, connecting new developments to other subdivisions causes worries about who will come and go.
Some residents of the Southgate Neighborhood, built in 1972, expressed concerns about the future design of the proposed Newbury Estates subdivision.

Even those in favor of the new development asked that the Newbury subdivision include parks of its own so residents would be less likely to use two private parks located within the Southgate area.

In an interview, Harry Guenthner, president of the Southgate Water Association, defended the residents' stance by saying that Southgate residents had subsidized the park themselves.

"Now people from this new neighborhood will come over and use it," he said.

Guenthner said his testimony to the City Council was given as a representation of what many different homeowners in Southgate felt. However, he said he is in favor of new, better looking subdivisions.

"We know they're going to be developed and we know they'll be quality homes," he said.

Guenthner also said the idea of more foot trails and bike trails appealed to him.

Hasson said the city's effort is designed to create a closer sense of community among different subdivisions as well as make foot and bike travel easier.

"It's exciting," he said. "We're breaking down the whole cultural perspective. We're always trying to find new connections at every level."

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