The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about many changes to our daily lives. For me, one bright spot in this season is spending more time with my son. Like many families, one of the first ways the pandemic impacted us was the loss of child-care. My wife and I are grateful that both our jobs can be done remotely, though balancing work and parenting can be challenging. We found a good routine of taking turns working and taking care of our toddler.
As the pandemic progressed and the weather warmed, we were relieved to emerge from our home for more outdoor activity. Walking or biking on the Pennsy Greenway trail soon became our daily routine. I believe the Pennsy Greenway is one of the more amazing resources for our town. Some days we would walk down to Indiana and back; other days we would walk north on the trail from Winterhoff Park. While on the trail, I find myself appreciating the long sections lined with trees and the landscaped beds with native plants — while also imagining ways this trail might be even better.
For example, just one or two well-positioned benches in a shady spot would give people a place to pause and take a break. And while the trail itself is an easy walk, getting to the trail can be troublesome — there are stretches of broken sidewalk between my house and the trail entrance that are difficult to navigate with the stroller.
I suspect the best city trails are not only smooth and scenic, but also lead to great destinations. I would love to see greater connections between the neighborhoods, parks, and the Pennsy Greenway. Lansing’s dog park is a short distance from the Pennsy Greenway — it should be easy to exit the trail on Chicago Avenue and walk to the dog park in Bock Park. But an overgrown fence line and low-hanging tree branches are another obstacle; and then, reaching the dog park, we found that there is no sidewalk connecting to the other side of Bock Park. Further north, one of the Districts newest playgrounds, at Potts Park, is adjacent to the Greenway. However, the paved bike trail ends and we cannot easily bike over to the playground from the trail.
I wonder about the trail’s economic impact, because shops and restaurants can also be destinations along the trail. Can we use the Pennsy Greenway to draw people and revenue into Lansing? Are local businesses aware of the families, cycling clubs, and walkers who pass through on the trial — who might need refreshment, a tire patch, or a snack for their kids? Are passersby aware of what businesses are a short distance away on Ridge Road?
There are many empty storefronts right now. What kind of businesses might do well if they leveraged the asset of the trail? How could the trails more fully connect the different neighborhoods, parks, restaurants and shops?
Just over 10 years ago, the Lan Oak Park District created a bicycle plan (PDF) with the goals to:
- “Maximize access to its planned regional trail connections and their impact on quality of life and the local economy”
- “Encourage…residents to bicycle for transportation, recreation, and good health.”
These are great goals for our community. A comprehensive plan (PDF) adopted by the Village in 2014 re-iterated many of the goals and ambitions of the bike plan from the Lan Oak Park District. The range of priorities from near-term to long-term included signage, on-street bike lanes, bike parking, education programs, a district map, and road diets. Also included, suggestions for creating more access points to the trail and an even larger ambition to put bike trails along the ComEd power lines to develop a nearly 8-mile trail loop within Lansing. While some of these priorities were completed, many remain unfulfilled after 10 years.
I am still learning who to connect with in Lansing about opportunities to be involved. I wonder if others feel the same. Can more events like the Lansing Overnight On Pedals (LOOP), hosted by the Lansing Area Chamber, be used to promote community participation on the trails? Are the connections between the Village, the Park District, the Chamber, and the many volunteer-oriented civic organizations like L.A.C.E., the Lions, the Women’s Business Association able to push fresh energy into this community development?
If you haven’t travelled far on the trail, I would encourage you to check it out and explore more of Lansing. I am interested to meet folks in our community who are eager to see the trails and parks connect people with each other and to the shops and restaurants in Lansing.
Let me know if you feel the same way.
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