Marion mulls how to use open space

Nov 1, 2018

MARION — Marion residents want more more safety for walkers and bikers on sidewalks and when crossing streets, additional spots for canoe and kayak recreation, and town policies that enforce safety measures. That’s what around two dozen meeting participants told Bill Napolitano at a Stewards of Community Open Space meeting Nov. 1 after the regional planner presented them with the results of a community survey. 

The survey found that although Marion’s population is aging, it is still extremely active, and enjoys walking, biking and swimming. When asked about what they would like to upgrade or what they would pay fees and taxes to support, residents focused on sidewalks, inter-town bike paths and the Senior Center.

The survey also showed that residents are overall satisfied with the available recreation areas, but want more protected open space. That’s despite the fact that the town protected 49 percent of its acreage, or 1,061 acres, from 2005 to 2013.

Napolitano, who works for the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District, also observed that concerns about septic pollution, boat pollution and runoff pollution reveal that Marion is a very water-oriented community.

Though survey responses focused heavily on the senior center and bike paths, meeting attendees seemed satisfied with the steps the town was taking on those two projects.

When asked about sidewalks, all of the attendees agreed that although Marion has a lot of sidewalks, they are not user-friendly, either due to poor surface conditions, poles in the middle of sidewalks along Route 6 that inhibit biking, or sections with no shoulder between the sidewalks and road.

The group also criticized the lack of crosswalks, especially on Route 6 or in areas near Washburn Park, where many feel it is unsafe for kids to cross the street.

The residents also requested that the town consider adding canoe and kayak access points and storage to land that it owns by creeks where people could kayak.

Other changes that residents brought up at the meeting had less to do with physical changes to spaces, and more to do with policy changes.

Meeting attendees pointed out that enforcing speed limits would make them feel safer when walking, and brainstormed ways to do so with flashing signs or parked cruisers.

As a combination of a policy change and a physical change, residents asked for more signage and information on publicly open spaces, or spaces where people can shellfish. 

Napolitano pointed to Rochester and a booklet it made of trails and open spaces as a good example of this.