Grant award will help Owensville prepare infrastructure for walking, biking, handicap accessible town connections

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 4/8/21

The city of Owensville has Chrysa Niewald to thank for a $10,000 Active Living Communities of Practice grant that focuses on helping cities develop complete street plans that include walking and …

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Grant award will help Owensville prepare infrastructure for walking, biking, handicap accessible town connections

Posted

The city of Owensville has Chrysa Niewald to thank for a $10,000 Active Living Communities of Practice grant that focuses on helping cities develop complete street plans that include walking and biking-friendly infrastructure.

“A city would adopt the plan, that moving forward, they would try to have some specs for walking and biking infrastructure,” Niewald explained. “It is not a plan to fix sidewalks and streets to be walkable, but when things are replaced, like bump-outs or zero-entry curbing, it will be friendly for walking, biking and handicap accessible.”

Since the announcement of the grant earlier this year, awarded through the Division of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), a steering committee has been implemented.

“There are so many people from all aspects of the community,” Niewald said about the committee. “People from the school, nursing home, and senior citizens. The idea is to promote a healthy community for towns with populations under 20,000.”

Some of the things the committee was able to do with the grant funds include hiring an engineering firm to assist with the project. Up to $4,900 is allotted for engineering.

“They are going to bike around town to see some of the barriers we have,” Niewald said Tuesday at noon.

She was scheduled for the bicycle meeting at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon. The group was spotted riding north on First Street at around 2 p.m.

“Just crossing the highway is problematic,” she said. “Only one side of the crosswalk on the four-way stop has a pedestrian button and bicycles are supposed to cross on the left. You don’t have enough time to cross the street, press the crosswalk button and cross back to walk across the road before the ‘walk sign’ goes off.”

Niewald said the grant was not written specifically in conjunction with the future Rock Island Trail, but they are hoping to someday connect the projects together.

“We were actually invited to apply for the grant because of the Rock Island trail,” she said. “The plan for the Rock Island Trail isn’t part of the grant. It is making connections to the trail, from the trail to, and to other places.”

Niewald began the project with the former city administrator and with the blessing of city officials.

“Then that administrator quit, and I did most of the work with Angela Lairmore, who did other city-side stuff,” she said. “The grant had to have what they called a ‘community champion.’ I asked what that was and they said ‘someone like you who will push that forward.’ I couldn’t do this without the city or Angela and new city administrator Randy Blaske, who have been great to work with.”

Anyone who wants to be on the steering committee for the grant should contact Niewald or Lairmore at Owensville City Hall. “Owensville is an older town, and a lot of the stormwater grates are wide and you can lose a bicycle tire in it if not careful,” Niewald said.

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