Forging pathways

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After months of planning and revisions, the Emmett City Council has approved a Master Pathways Plan that can serve as a guiding document for future improvements to pedestrian and bicycle traffic in Emmett.

“Like any master plan this is just that – a plan,” Emmett Public Works Director Clint Seamons said. “This is open for changes as needed in the future but it gives us a vision of what we want to accomplish as other projects, including new development, arise and we are able to work cooperatively to bring to fruition.”

For Emmett Mayor Gordon Petrie it is another tool in his overall Healthy Community initiative. “The healthier a community we become the more resilient we are to withstand challenges like the ones individuals face today with the coronavirus. Keep active, eat healthy, choose wisely, reduce obesity and other chronic health conditions and we will all benefit.”

The vision for the master plan initially had to take a brutal assessment of where Emmett is today with its infrastructure. Where and how do we to encourage pedestrian and bicycle traffic in a safe manner that can co-exist with motorized traffic.

One of the initial goals identified was to develop an aesthetically pleasing and safe pathway system that links important community destinations such as parks, schools, and neighborhoods. How to connect Emmett’s Historic District, the Gem Island Sports Complex, the Payette River and other Gem County pathways.

These connections needed to be able to serve both transportation and recreation needs.

Use of this plan as the basis for prioritizing pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure improvements and expansions is a crucial step. It also can be a tool to help seek funding.

“With this in place we at least have a vision on the table when Development opens conversations with new housing projects, or even just remodels or improvements intended for existing property,” Seamons said.

An ordinance to address pedestrian concerns is nothing new to Emmett. The first sidewalk ordinance was passed in 1893. A lot of changes have taken place since then and the infrastructure has not always kept up with those needs.

For the most part the City has had to rely on property owners to repair existing sidewalks and rely on new developments to construct new ones.

The updated Plan Map will at least identify some of those issues and can make them part of the Building Permit process.

The plan also recognizes a variety of national design standards to at least consider before projects can move forward.

“It’s critical that we gain some consistency from block to block and property to property so that the completed plan will flow – aesthetically as well as functionally,” Seamons said.

Among the major goals identified in the Pathway Plan:

• A continuous connection from Historic Main Street to the Gem Island Sports Complex.

• A connection between the City Park and river via N. Johns Ave.

• A connection between downtown Emmett and the City Cemetery.

• A safe connection of the Payette River pathways on each side of Washington Ave.

While the plan was adopted in October by the Emmett City Council, many of its features have been factors in reconstruction on Washington Avenue this summer by the Idaho Department of Transportation. They also play a role in the work that ITD is helping to fund on S. Johns in 2021.

“Eventually there should be a good pedestrian and bike pathway from downtown via Johns to 12th St. that will help loop all the schools together,” Seamons said. “That includes facilitating better access from the community to the new walk path, Pete’s Path, at Carberry.”

Public safety and pathway preservation are high priorities for the system. That may mean new ordinances adopted in such areas as leashing rules, safety lighting, traffic signs/signal crossings, and ensuring that access points and visual corridors are protected.

“It won’t happen over night,” Seamons said. “But now choices and priorities as funds become available will be clear and transparent for us all.”

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