The City of Moulton, Main Street Alabama and North Central Alabama Regional Council of Governments (NARCOG) performed a Walkability Audit of downtown Moulton on Thursday, Sept. 5.
Main Street Alabama Field Services Specialist Trisha Black and NARCOG Regional Planning and Development Director Joey Hester lead participants on the walking audit that started at City Hall on Seminary Street.
The audit allowed its participants to evaluate their downtown area regarding accessibility, traffic safety, visual appeal and well-defined public space, according to Black and Hester.
The team briefed walking participants before the audit, explaining high priority areas to watch for including sidewalk surfaces, crosswalk and stoplight timing, public seating and shade trees along the walkway, stairs and ramps, and business fronts.
The objective is to grade our downtown areas on how inviting they are to the public, how safe walkways are, and if they are handicap accessible, Hester said.
“Our goal is to educate local residents and their city officials on how to make their downtown districts more inclusive and friendly for all users,” he said.
During the audit, walkers strolled along a mapped out area surrounding Moulton’s Square. The group made several stops along each street to grade or evaluate the area they just passed through.
Areas that received lower grades were mostly due to poorly defined sidewalk space, cracks or uneven surfaces in the sidewalk, stairs or curbs in the walkway without a ramp, or for lack of visual appeal.
Following the audit, Black and Hester had the walkers to list improvements that could be made and categorize them as easy fixes or difficult ones. Some of the easy solutions suggested by participants included pressure washing and patching existing sidewalks, painting murals along the back or side-views of dilapidated buildings, adding displays in windows of vacant buildings, painting striped walkways for pedestrians in some intersections, and holding more events to invite traffic downtown.
Moulton Mayor Roger Weatherwax, who also attended the audit, said the group offered helpful suggestions on how to improve the ambiance downtown and also how to effectively address the issues.
Black said many of these solutions could be achieved by volunteers or local non-profit organizations who want to revamp or improve their city.
“With the city’s blessing, volunteers could come together for downtown projects, and that’s going to be more receptive,” she said.
She suggested vocational students be lead to help improve walkway visibility or build benches for downtown area seating. Local artists may want to volunteer to paint murals or Instagramable hot spots along brick facing.
Black also listed other resources city officials and residents could access online for more ideas and information. These included America Walks, Walk Your City, Project for Public Spaces, Walk Score, 8 80 Cities and other websites.
Main Street Alabama and NARCOG have conducted Walkability Audits in six other cities including Moulton and Courtland. Hester said the partners will host a final audit in Town Creek, to be determined at a later date.