Walkable Warren is about letting people do their own thing at their own pace.
Want to see historic architecture? There’s plenty of that.
A theatre and an art gallery? Sure.
How about a nice walk along a river? We have that, too.
“This city is just perfectly laid out for walking and biking trail development,” Farley Wright of Area Agency on Aging, and one of the people spearheading Walkable Warren, said on Monday. “Warren is amazingly rich in assets – Struthers Library Theatre, green spaces, the Allegheny River and Conewango Creek.”
Wright was in at the beginning of the Area Agency on Aging’s work is to encourage healthy living among the senior population. “From an aging standpoint, the big push is all about healthy lifestyles,” he said.
Walkable Warren is a perfect fit. The idea will encourage walking and activity among the seniors. That it will encourage healthy living for many other groups is an added bonus.
“We’re part of a larger community,” he said.
As Warren County Planning Director, Dan Glotz is in from the early stages of many long-term projects. He joins Wright in spearheading Walkable Warren.
Healthy living is not just a goal for senior organizations. “It’s a big push by DCNR (Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources),” Glotz said.
The goal is to design routes people can take on foot or on a bike to enjoy what Warren has to offer.
“We’re really hoping we get some local support,” Wright said.
That shouldn’t be too hard. “It’s a win-win,” Wright said. “The private sector benefits from what we’re trying to do.”
“It doesn’t take a lot of money,” Glotz said. “You’re identifying routes that are already there.”
Signage, kiosks and tour packages are the main products Walkable Warren would need.
Wright has applied for a mini-grant through the Pennsylvania Wilds and the Pennsylvania Lumber Heritage Region.
“DCNR could be another potential source,” Glotz said.
The Route 6 Alliance is another resource Walkable Warren could look to. “You already have lots of outside efforts going on to bring people in here,” Glotz said.
“It’s making what you already have work for you,” Wright said.
Creating routes for bicyclists does not mean making a quick, easy, and traffic-free path for them. Extending the existing Bike-Hike Trail is not part of the project, not only because that kind of work would take a lot more money than the organizers of Walkable Warren are prepared to raise and spend.
The cyclists Walkable Warren will cater to take the time to stop and smell the roses. That means people spending time in Warren.
“It doesn’t have to be connected all the way through,” Wright said. “In congested areas, maybe you dismount.
“We are working with the city to identify what this corridor will be,” he added.
The group hopes to put up kiosks that are equipped as bike racks throughout the walkable area. “We’re trying to secure some funding,” Glotz said.
Safety is a concern for the Walkable Warren group, and encouraging people to stop and enjoy the sights rather than buzz right past is part of that. “We have to be conscientious to safety issues,” Glotz said.
“If you have a biker coming up Liberty (Street) into Impact Warren… that’s a biker’s dream,” Wright said.
The green spaces listed so far on the Walkable Warren targets include Betts Park, Beaty Park, Point Park, the Fitness Park at DeFrees Park, Gen. Joseph Warren Park, Morck Park at the southern end of the Bike-Hike Trail, and Crescent Park. Other points of interest include Soldiers and Sailors Park, Breeze Point, the Library Theater, Crary Art Gallery, War Memorial Field, the City of Warren Pool, Allegheny Community Center (ACC), and several other areas.
“You can’t leave out Oakland Cemetery,” Glotz said.
The city is also working on a downtown walk along the Allegheny River west of Hickory Street.
The organizers are looking at the ACC as sort of the headquarters for Walkable Warren. The Transit Authority of Warren County is right downstairs and has buses that traverse the county equipped with bike racks.
“We’re trying to look at that all together to get the folks to take advantage of the various amenities that we have,” Glotz said. “It fans out to the parks, the downtown, the historic district.”
There are existing tours – including Warren County Historical Society walking tours – that could tie into or become parts of the walkable plan.
“We’ve got a lot of history,” Glotz said. “On those kiosks we want to tell that story, maybe identify and highlight some potential routes.”
Other local projects will dovetail with Walkable Warren. The Leadership Warren County project Virtual Warren would be an easy fit. The Warren County Visitors Bureau is another natural partner for the project.
And eventually the idea could spread into Warren’s water trails.
Water access could be created or encouraged at the ACC with TAWC serving as transportation hub, Wright said.
“Let’s rebuild the community,” Wright said. “We’re all in this together.”