CARLETON PLACE – A local graduate student is urging Carleton Place town council to stand up to developers and tell them that they can build, but only if it makes the town a more walkable community.
“Carleton Place is at time when people want to move here, they want to build here,” said Kerry Hamilton, after a special meeting of town council July 7. “You’re in a prime time to say, ‘No, we want it this way”… You can take a step back and not say yes to everything.”
Hamilton, a lifelong Carleton Place resident, pointed out that a proposed Wal-Mart in Cobourg, Ont. was delayed until the proposals were changed to make the new development more pedestrian friendly and green.
Hamilton is a graduate student at Queen’s University in Kingston, and is an Msc. candidate pursuing studies in health promotion and the ‘built environment’.
She did commend council for encouraging paths along the side of McNeely Avenue as a way to keep people moving and active, and to offer an alternative to the car to get up and down the street.
“Carleton Place has done a lot with their new developments, so I commend them for that,” said Hamilton.
The main thrust of Hamilton’s speech was to highlight how an area’s built environment could impact – positively and negatively – on the health of the people in that area. If a child has no place to exercise, then they will not exercise, for example.
“We’ve really been building a lot of parking lots instead of pedestrian walks,” said Hamilton. “We’ve been building a lot of roadways, but not a lot of walkways … We’re promoting physical activity but not a physical environment.”
She pointed out that she has used her family home on Joseph Street near Notre Dame Catholic High School in the town’s north end as a guinea pig in an online computer program that measures how pedestrian friendly an area is to pedestrians.
Joseph Street itself scored 22 out of 100.
“We don’t have enough grid-like intersections,” said Hamilton of the score. “I only have a school that I can walk to,” she said, adding that a five-to-10 walk window was good to have. The school was not the only walkable thing in her neighbourhood though.
“I know we have a Mac’s Milk in our area,” said Hamilton. “My mom walks to it whenever we run out of milk. We need more stuff like that.”
A walk from Joseph Street to the downtown core of Bridge Street scored a low six out of 100.
McNeely Avenue fared better at 45 per cent, since it was walkable, close to green space and, of course, plenty of stores. Hamilton said that the big box stores along Highway 7 could still be made more green and pedestrian friendly, by adding more walking paths, crosswalks, and infilling apartments and other stores in existing parking.
“We need to make active choices easy choices,” said Hamilton. She asked if any of the councillors had ever walked or cycled to the big box stores. Coun. Jerry Flynn said that he had cycled there, once.
“I took a taxi back,” Flynn said.
Even Hamilton, herself an avid cyclist, said that while she loves the ice cream at the Balderson shop near Franktown Road and Highway 7, she has only made that trek on cycle once, and would not want to repeat the experience.
In order to make Highway 7 more inviting – and maybe encourage people to stay a while and shop – Hamilton suggested a green median could be installed in the middle of the road. She even suggested that, in the future, a pedestrian bridge could be built over Highway 7, and that housing developments within walking distance could be build along the highway’s southern edge and beyond.
The intersection of Moore Street and Lansdowne Avenue was an area where Hamilton felt that the town had regressed somewhat and lost its walkable appeal. As one drives south as Bridge Street becomes Moore, “it kind of dissipates.”
She remembers going to the Tim Hortons at the intersection, and shopping at the Giant Tiger store that used to be in The Mews.
“I don’t see a lot of pedestrians down there any more,” said Hamilton.
Bridge Street, however, fared very well, at 88 per cent walkability, with plenty of shops and houses mixed together.
“We want environments like that,” said Hamilton.
Hamilton is a big proponent of courtesy crosswalks, but some councillors had their reservations about them.
“We have an issue here with courtesy crosswalks,” said Coun. Rob Probert.
Coun. Louis Antonakos pointed out that someone was already hit by a car at the crosswalk near the post office on Bridge Street. Hamilton said that courtesy crosswalks take some time for a community to get used to and that even she is guilty of not always noticing them.
“I’m totally not used to it and I drove right through it,” she said of a recent driving experience. “We’re trying to change the culture. (But) I would stick with it. I think it is the right idea.”
“These are in every town across the country and they work everywhere else,” said Flynn. “Why don’t they work here?”
Antonakos pointed out that the courtesy crosswalks are not consistent with provincial standards.