Fairfield Connects: City looks at more sidewalks, trails, and paths
By Staff Report
Connectivity has been a key concern for those that live, work or visit the City of Fairfield. Residents have overwhelmingly expressed the need for more sidewalks as well as walking and biking trails in response to recent comprehensive plan update.
The comprehensive plan, Fairfield Forward, was adopted in December 2019. The comprehensive plan looks at things like zoning, goals, policies and land use as well as the city’s vision in the future. As part of that process, the city received a lot of input about connectivity, sidewalks, and multi-use paths, connecting the parks and schools.
That led to the “Fairfield Connects” project or connectivity initiative, which is an extension of the comprehensive plan. “Fairfield Connects” will address access to and between neighborhoods, activity centers, and existing recreational regional trails such as the Great Miami River Trail.
“We decided from what we heard during that process to, essentially, take the connectivity part a step further, and engage a consultant (MKSK, a Cincinnati-based engineering firm) to do a Citywide Active Transportation Plan, which would help improve pedestrian interconnectivity” said Ben Mann, Deputy Public Works Director of the City of Fairfield.
In December, the City also launched the “Fairfield Connects” online survey to solicit community input on how to better connect the city. The goal of “Fairfield Connects” is to make Fairfield more bikeable and walkable. The survey was promoted through the City’s website, on social media, and advertised in the Fairfield Flyer newsletter. More than 1,000 people responded to the survey. The survey was administered in hopes of helping city officials identify the ways to improve access. The online survey closed on January 31.
Mann said the survey results will be presented to City Council in the form of a briefing early in February. Then, the community will have another opportunity to offer input during a public open house, which will be held on Tuesday, March 3 at the Community Arts Center from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. After those meetings, the hope is to have a finalized plan by late spring to early summer that Council can review for adoption.
Mann said the city has a relatively comprehensive sidewalk network throughout the City of Fairfield, but it’s still a suburban city without connectivity to every neighborhood or park. There’s not a lot in the way of multi-use paths in the city. However, the city does connect to the Great Miami River Trail.
“…We’ve been adding a lot of paved pathways within parks, and we’ve started to think about connectivity and connecting those parks via sidewalk. So, the plan started out with where we would want to extend, and where we would want to make connections with sidewalks that are missing, or where we would want to make connections with multi-use paths that maybe hadn’t been thought of. We started thinking of bicyclists as well, and how you might walk or bike to different locations,” Mann said.
He said the City hopes to continue to hear more from the public, so they can confirm they are on the right track, evaluate if anything is missing, and prioritize what’s most important.
“The expansion of trails is happening everywhere. It’s something that people are asking for everywhere, not just in Fairfield,” Mann said, “I think there’s definitely a push for trails, and there are more people getting out and using them, recreationally.”
He continued, “Largely, what we’ve heard is people want easier access to the recreational trails.”
Additionally, some have expressed interest in sidewalk connectivity to the high school, the freshman school and the area around Jungle Jim’s.
Nick Dill, engineer, City of Fairfield said the survey revealed the top four locations that people want access to walking or biking were the city parks, Village Green, regional trails and the surrounding/adjacent neighborhoods.
He said. when asked if a complete trail network existed in the City, what kind of connectivity it would be used for, 91 percent of survey respondents said they would want to use it for recreation and exercise. About 80 percent of respondents said they would want connectivity to access a park. About 45 percent of the respondents said they would use it for shopping, and 25 percent said they would use it for commuting or getting to school.
Dill said of those that responded, 95 percent of the respondents are homeowners in Fairfield. The largest number of respondents, about 25 percent, are ages 41 to 50.
“The survey is fairly anonymous. We did have age and homeownership. Those are the two demographics questions we asked,” Dill said.
People that live in Fairfield were the top responders at about 80 percent. Those that shop in Fairfield followed at 75 percent, and those that work in Fairfield made up 55 percent of the responders.
He said routes that survey participants prioritized on the map in top order, included River Road West, Harbin Park, Pleasant Avenue, and Route 4/Dixie Hwy.
Another route suggested by those who took the survey was the Symmes Road connection, and officials said that will be discussed further.
Internally, Mann said added connectivity has been discussed on Mack Road from Route 4 to South Gilmore and Ross and Woodridge Roads (which is already 95 percent connected.)
“What we’ve found, I guess our two cents worth would be, there seems to be a lot of support for trails. There’s a lot of support for sidewalk connectivity. There’s definitely support for incorporating these into projects when we can, and I think there’s support for looking for outside funding. There’s a lot of support for connectivity between parks,” Mann said.
Unless we hear differently from our elected officials, or from the people that live here, I think we are going to focus on getting them better access to the recreational trails from where they live, he said.
“A big part of this, we found, and as we’ve developed this has been connecting people to the town center, to Village Green, so we want people to able to come there to eat and to shop. That’s the area where we hold our festivals and concerts. From that standpoint, that’s more cultural than recreational,” Mann added.