Shade Parade Nashville makes The Scene!
To speed up the sidewalk process, a city walking enthusiast takes private steps to fix a public problem
Feet Meet the Pavementby Steven Hale@iamstevenhale
April 10th, 2014
Stacy Dorris is what you might call a sidewalk activist. A Vanderbilt pediatric allergist, Dorris also manages a blog, Shade Parade Nashville, with the goal of highlighting the need for a more walkable Nashville — specifically, through the construction of more (and better) sidewalks. She sort of walked right into the issue, around her home off Woodlawn Drive.
"I want to be able to just put on a pair of shoes and go somewhere," she says. "I want that. It's important to me, and I feel like [in terms of] my overall happiness and health, it's an important thing. And the fact that I literally sometimes can't get somewhere because the walkability is so maybe unsafe, or unpleasant, or whatever it might be — I thought, well, I need to find the people in Nashville who are doing this."
The groups she found advocating for biking and walking, she says, tend to put more emphasis on biking. So it fell to her to bring more attention to pedestrian needs. She started close to home, contacting the Woodlawn Area Neighborhood Association about her desire to see the sidewalks on Bowling Avenue completed. About two-thirds of the street has sidewalks, but the approximately 0.7 mile stretch — and she has measured — from Brighton Road to Woodmont Boulevard does not.
"We had this little piece that I could see would make a complete street, and it seemed kind of doable," she says. "I walked it, I figured out what the hardscapes were that would have to be moved, all of that kind of stuff, and it didn't seem that complicated. Plus our neighborhood is — you know, it's a nice neighborhood. I felt like people would potentially donate to do this."
She thought private contributions might be a way to get the project done, or at least to instigate some discussion about the need. A survey of neighbors has shown promising interest, she says, while noting that others are "stridently against" the idea because they fear it could set up a system of haves and have-nots when it comes to sidewalks. In other words, upscale neighborhoods could begin filling out their sidewalks, leaving other parts of the city behind.
Public Works spokeswoman Jenna Smith says she doesn't believe that approach has been used before in Nashville, and acknowledges potential pitfalls, as well as legislative and legal processes that would have to be involved.
"But that's not to say where there's a will, there couldn't be a way," she says.
Public Works officials will attend an April 23 public meeting that Dorris has organized about the missing sidewalk on Bowling Avenue. Smith says they will give an overview of the history of sidewalks in Nashville, and the normal process, and also take questions.