Annapolis is a walking town. It has always been so. In 1695, Gov. Francis Nicholson designed it so people could move from home to church to pubs to school to businesses in a two- to five-block walk.
Compact neighborhoods still make Annapolis a place to walk and wander and wonder. Live here and you can walk to church and to school and to businesses and to pubs. Visit and you can explore your eclectic interests, peer over a garden gate of a colonial house on narrow streets and walk in the footsteps of our nation’s founders.
Since 1776, 32 presidents have walked in Annapolis. President Lincoln passed through on a secret mission to settle the Civil War. President Clinton shopped on Maryland Avenue and quaffed a beer at the Little Campus Inn (now Galway Bay). Michelle Obama lunched in Eastport at the Boatyard Bar and Grill.
Among its many names, Annapolis could be called Trail City. Twenty-five years ago, the Recreation Advisory Board enlisted Georgetown University students to develop a city park and trail plan. Parks and Path for People won a national award.
Parks and Path for People defined a walking network from West Annapolis to Back Creek Park. County Executive Jim Lighthizer, one of the state pioneers in trail-making, secured transportation dollars to support the plan. Environmentalist Steve Carr was hired to manage the project, which was unveiled on the first Greenscape Day 22 years ago with a walk of state and city officials from Poplar Park along the old railroad right of way to the current location of the Annapolis Children’s Museum off Silopanna Road and across Bumpers Bridge to Truxtun Park.
Compact Annapolis is a walking city. But is it a Walk Friendly Community?
Inaugurated this year and supported by FedEx, Walk Friendly Community awards cities for policies and plans that promote a safe pedestrian environment. Eight categories are walk-scored.
Neighborhoods are also assessed for their walkability.
Three centuries ago, we would have aced that one. But when small lost favor, giant corporations forced us into our cars to shop for food. Over the last 40 years, two grocery stores in the City Dock area closed. So did three in Eastport.
Walk Friendly Community also scores the number of locals who walk, bike, carpool or take public transportation to work. The number of collisions of pedestrian and motorized vehicle is counted. Buffer zones between sidewalks and streets — Eastportoricans plant them with flowers — are listed.
Miles of sidewalks on both sides of the street are assessed. Sidewalks laid along Forest Drive in Parole after 15 years of haggling and along Edgewood Road — those completed five years ago — helped the city’s safety quotient.
Street calming practices are measured. To the consternation of motorists but at the request of residents, some Annapolis neighborhoods use punch outs and islands to slow cars. Neighbors designed Bay Ridge Avenue to be a real challenge for a speedster. Rumble strips on Northwest Street also send messages to motorists that pedestrians are crossing ahead.
But the category of budgeted money for sidewalk repair brings Annapolis out of award-winning range. City homeowners are responsible for sidewalk repair, which can amount to a personal price tag of $1,000. An effort to share the burden with a $25 fee and city public service fixes erupted in community outrage. Repairing the broken and hazardous sidewalks around St. Anne’s Church caused a Ward One flap, despite funding by contribution. Citizens who live on outer West Street are fortunate to have their sidewalks maintained by the state.
Walk Friendly Community applicants must give three reasons why their city deserves an award — and identify three aspects most in need of improvement. Perhaps you have some ideas to share with your alderman or alderwoman.
The next round of Walk Friendly Community applications is a year away. Annapolis has time to meet the engineering, education, planning and enforcement goals essential to a safe Walk Friendly Community.
Then again, perhaps the issue is moot. Some representatives in Congress are seeking to delete the two cents of each transportation dollar designated for alternative transportation support as trails, safe school routes, sidewalk and pedestrian and biking safety.