Planner: Let's make North Providence a more walkable place

Planner: Let's make North Providence a more walkable place

Trail system could snake across northern part of town

NORTH PROVIDENCE - Construction of a $100,000 trail system this spring could provide the launching point for an eventual walking path that snakes from one end of the town to the other, says the town's new planning consultant.

The initial project at Camp Meehan will be designed with the cross-town walking system in mind, according to planner David Westcott. The walking trail system, which could take years to complete, could be a step toward improving the quality of life in North Providence, he said, making people less dependent on cars to get around.

"We need to think about making the town more walkable," he said. "We're very motor vehicle-oriented."

Part of the town's pending comprehensive plan update calls for "a recreation and heritage network" route that would cover many of the town's existing pieces of recreation, open space, and conservation area properties. The plan was a joint effort of many people, said Westcott, particularly members of the North Providence Planning Board.

The most realistic goal for a walking path in the short-term would be to start it at the Randall Reservation in the northwest corner of town then head east to Camp Meehan and Governor Notte Park, then around the Louisquisset Golf Course, and finally to a piece of open space property off Louisquisset Pike, said Westcott.

The northern half of North Providence, near the Lincoln line, is home to the majority of the town's remaining farms and tracts of open property, said Westcott, making a walking path/recreation trail much more feasible than some areas.

Construction of walking trails at Camp Meehan should get started this spring, said Westcott, after the Appalachian Mountain Club won a bidding war for the project. The Camp Meehan trail will be paid for through a $100,000 grant from the Department of Environmental Management.

"That trail would become part of the network," he said. "We would be trying over the next 20 years to have more segments of trails done where we can."

Town officials should take a comprehensive approach to transportation in North Providence, said Westcott, whether that means creating ways for residents to walk from more rural areas to busier business districts or building public transit hubs in "clear and obvious" spots, like the Shaw's plaza.

Making it easier for more residents to walk places or use public transit will have many benefits, said Westcott, including reducing traffic congestion, lowering energy consumption by reducing vehicle miles, and improving air quality. A good public transit system "links neighborhoods and communities," and should be a top priority of town officials and the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority.

Westcott acknowledged that the plans drawn up by officials for a more walkable North Providence "won't happen Thursday," but it's good to have a long-range strategy in place so everyone knows where they're going.