Walk it like I talk it

Kwasi Bosompem, left, senior planner for St. Mary’s department of land use and growth management, and Fred Shaffer, a planning coordinator for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, listen to Sue Veith, urban and environment planner for St. Mary’s department of economic development, as she speaks at the Tuesday night panel discussion on how transportation, trails and community design and policy can improve health and wellness at St. Mary’s College of Maryland’s Cole Cinema.

A planner for the county’s land use department said he chose to travel by foot most of his life, but the layout of St. Mary’s makes it difficult to continue to do so.

Kwasi Bosompem, a senior planner for St. Mary’s department of land use and growth management, spoke at the Cole Cinema on St. Mary’s College of Maryland’s campus Tuesday evening, along with two other planners, to discuss how transportation, trails and community design and policy can improve health and wellness.

Bosompem spent time talking about how accessible some of the trails are in the county.

“If you can’t get close to the trails, you can’t walk on the trails,” he said.

Bosompem said he tries to walk to the flea market in Charlotte Hall off of Route 5 going past Wawa, Food Lion and Dunkin’ Donuts, but it’s difficult. His son almost got hit by a car around there.

“It’s a problem,” he added.

Bosompem said it needs to be a community effort to make an area more walkable. He encouraged citizen groups to bring forth planning related issues to the county’s attention.

Sue Veith, urban and environment planner for St. Mary’s department of economic development, also encouraged the audience to advocate for walkable spaces. She said if someone comes across a dirt path outside, people should tell local government to turn it into a sidewalk. She suggested to ask for bike paths, tell authorities about unsafe roads and intersections, advocate for good design and participate in the county plan process.

Bosompem suggested towns should be designed like college campuses. He gave examples of different walkable-designed areas like the Mosaic shopping center in Fairfax County where “every Tom, Dick and Harry can walk.”

The senior planner also noted how the notion of driving is so engrained in people today. When Bosompem was walking outside, a man, with a “different way of thinking,” offered him a ride. “From his side, he sees me as a poor African guy who’s walking,” Bosompem said. “It’s not always necessary to take a car.”

“You shouldn’t have to get in your car to drive to your park to walk on the trail,” Fred Shaffer, a planning coordinator for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, said he was told by a colleague.

He spoke about a master plan his department is working on for Prince George’s County after Veith spoke about a number of planning projects happening in St. Mary’s.

She said they are hoping to develop Lexington Manor — the old Flattops housing development — as a passive park, widen St. Andrew’s Church Road, add public transportation for Naval Air Station Patuxent River employees and enhance FDR Boulevard to help limit traffic on Route 235. Veith also mentioned closing gaps on sidewalks that could help citizens with disabilities and extending the Three Notch Trail at least as far as Pegg Road.

Veith broke down the Lexington Park master plan that includes a transportation network beneficial to all ages, abilities and means of transportation, as well as new road connections and getting more people out and about to enhance health and wellness.

The county has 1,361 miles of roads, “but it’s hard to make a network with a lot of dead ends,” Veith said. “There’s a lot of sidewalks that go nowhere so you can’t get out of your neighborhood … that’s a gap problem that we need to solve.”

She noted that Lexington Park is the most walkable area in the county, but it still needs improvements with its inclines, declines and interruptions. She said its sidewalks would be a perfect skateboard spot if it wasn’t for the telephone poles standing in the way.

More information on trails, community walk and run groups and how walking benefits health and wellness can be found in St. Mary’s walking guide in digital format at www.smchd.org/walksmc or in print at the St. Mary’s health department, recreation and parks office or at the libraries around the county.

Twitter: @KristenEntNews

Twitter: @KristenEntNews