Oct 21, 2008

Students encouraged to share at city- sponsored forum about Wards Road

by Danielle Jacobs

Students can share their opinions on Wards Road development plans during a public meeting to with held with Lynchburg city officials on Oct. 23, 2008 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Liberty University Reber-Thomas Dining Hall.

The meeting, led by Barry Carpenter, City of Lynchburg design coordinator, is open to Liberty students, Central Virginia Community College students, restaurant owners, property owners and other concerned members of the local community. The event is designed to give stakeholders in the community a chance to give their input on making improvements to Wards Road for pedestrians and bicyclers. Liberty has a vested interest in this project because of the effect the results will have on its students.

“We have conducted many public forums and charrettes and we, and the plan, always benefit from the thoughtful ideas and input we receive from folks who participate in them,” Carpenter said.

The main purpose of the meeting will be to discuss ideas for revamping the Wards Road corridor, from Wards Ferry Road to Harvard Street, to better meet the needs of the public. Current ideas include plans to add connected sidewalks along the stores on both sides of Wards Road to increase accessibility and ensure safety for all who travel along the road. The new tunnel, planned to start in early 2009 to connect Liberty to Wards Road, is another ideal to be discussed. The tunnel plays a key role in the study, since upon completion it will greatly increase the number of pedestrians on Wards Road.

“Liberty is very excited the city is conducting this study and about the potential to open up the Wards Road shops to pedestrian traffic,” Lee Beaumont, director of Auxiliary Services, said.

Liberty students, specifically those who walk along Wards Road and would use the tunnel in the future, are encouraged to participate and voice their ideas. Student input is needed to develop a well devised plan to provide students with not only easy access to shops and restaurants along Wards Road, but also insurance of their safety.

“The safety of our students is a primary concern, and crosswalks and contiguous sidewalks linking the various shops will help ensure pedestrian traffic is adequately protected,” Beaumont said.

Carpenter will lead the event and direct discussion topics. An overview of the project and its goals will be presented before participants are split into groups. Each group, led by a trained facilitator, will discuss ideas for pedestrian and bicycle improvements for increased safety on Wards Road. Smaller groups will also draw up sketches before presenting ideas to the entire group. A study team will use the sketches and ideas to draw up a draft concept plan. The City of Lynchburg will present the draft concept plan to stakeholders at a later date.

“The charrette process, and its use of facilitated small group interaction and creativity, assures that we get early stakeholder input in a creative, focused and fun way,” Carpenter said.


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