Sylva pedestrian plan to come one step at a timeWritten by Quintin Ellison
Getting around on your own two feet in Sylva would be safer and easier if an ambitious, $4.5-million pedestrian plan becomes reality.
The plan — really, a wish list that would help keep the town moving now and in the future — is headed for review by the state Department of Transportation after being presented to civic leaders last week. The 20-year blueprint for getting from here to there safely calls for more sidewalks, crosswalks, traffic lights and a picnic area.
The state review is expected to take one to two months.
“I think this is the time to make the right choices for what we want in this community,” said John Bubacz, owner of Signature Brew Coffee Company, between tending to customers at the popular West Main Street establishment. “If we build more roads, we are going to only have more cars. If we make Sylva pedestrian-friendly, we’ll have families and out-of-town visitors walking to see what the town offers.”
What’s there, what’s not
Compared to many towns, Sylva is in fairly decent shape, said the plan’s primary architect, Don Kostelec. The town used a $20,000 Transportation Department grant to hire the Asheville-based consultant, the senior transportation planner for Transpo Group. Kostelec partnered with a local steering committee made up of town officials, the county’s greenways coordinator and others.
The sidewalks in downtown are wide, Kostelec said, and there are already some crosswalks in place. Additionally, the missing link of a sidewalk between Sylva and its neighbor, Dillsboro, is in the works, and a new bridge now connects downtown with a town park and playground, which were once cut off by Scott’s Creek.
But long-term, Kostelec said, the goal of the plan is to transform Sylva into truly “a great, walkable downtown.”
The plan will take time, money and patience to realize. Many of the recommendations fall under long-term goals that could take up to 20 years to build.
“Where I’m stuck is, where do we start pursuing funding for some of these projects?” said town Commissioner Stacey Knotts of the overall plan.
Kostelec suggested the town seek grants to help pay for the projects.
“Having an adopted policy kind of puts you in line, as I understand it,” Mayor Maurice Moody said.
Some business owners, however, want to remain focused on parking issues before that happens.
“It’s pretty important that we get more parking along Main Street,” said Ben Seay, the owner of My Place restaurant, who is better known for his ownership of Uncle Bill’s Flea Market, located between Sylva and Bryson City. “That’s the bigger problem. We need parking.”
The plan doesn’t ignore parking altogether. It acknowledges there are issues with typical parking lot designs in that the “primary carriageway for vehicles in the parking lot happens to coincide with where the greatest numbers of pedestrians cross: directly in front of the main entrance.”
For the most part, however, the plan is focused on what happens to people once they get out of their cars.
Sylva pedestrian plan
To make the costs more palatable, the plan is broken down into bite-sized pieces. Here are some of the recommendations.
Short-terms goals, 5 to 7 years, $289,000:
• Along Grindstaff Road, adding a crosswalk at Mill Street and upgrading the railroad crossing for pedestrian access.
• Building a picnic area outside the Jackson County Administration Building.
• Build a sidewalk from Grindstaff Road to Jackson Plaza.
• Along N.C. 107, include crosswalk and pedestrian signals on Wal-Mart side to connect existing sidewalks and upgrade with future sidewalks along the highway.
• On Main and Mill streets, fill sidewalk gaps and upgrade existing sidewalks, and make pedestrian access to the courthouse via Keener from Main Street.
Mid-term goals, 5 to 12 years, $617,000:
• At the U.S. 23 Business and Skyland Drive intersection, adding crosswalks, installing “countdown” pedestrian signals and upgrading curb ramps to meet Americans with Disabilities Acts requirements.
• On Savannah Drive, from Keener to Cowee streets, improve the stairway to Mark Watson Park, fix problem areas on existing sidewalks.
Long-term goals, 20 years, $3.5 million:
• Sidewalks along U.S. 23 Business near the hospital.
• Sidewalks from N.C. 107 along the west side of Cope Creek Road.