Lenox volunteers needed to conduct downtown 'walkability audit'


LENOX — Wanted: As many as 18 volunteers to take a mission-driven walking tour of Lenox on Thursday morning to scope out ways to make the downtown area more pedestrian-friendly for residents as well as visitors.

The so-called "walkability audit" open to Lenox residents was organized by Town Planner Gwen Miller and Lenox Community Center Director Kim Graham in collaboration with the nonprofit WalkBoston pedestrian advocacy organization.

The group promotes making "walking safer and easier in Massachusetts to encourage better health, a cleaner environment and vibrant communities."

Participants will fan out in small teams through the compact downtown historic village and business center, preparing proposals for well-defined walking loops within a one-mile radius enhanced by sign guideposts designed to strengthen "connectivity" and comfort for pedestrians and cyclists.

The town's Open Space and Recreation Plan adopted last year urged consideration of strategies to emphasize walking, along with reduced dependence on cars, for jaunts around residential neighborhoods as well as the business district.

Miller also pointed out that Lenox is a "Mass in Motion" community designated by the state Department of Public Health, eligible for free technical assistance from organizations such as WalkBoston to support surveys such as the "walkability audit."

"We're all thinking more about how we might make Lenox a great place for people of all ages, and also a safe, comfortable, attractive place for young residents," she said, "as well as to help newcomers and tourists get around more nimbly and easily."

Another goal is to improve access to municipal parking areas and to the town's historic assets.

Miller took students from the Lenox Memorial Middle and High School's advance-placement environmental science class on a tour of several neighborhoods last spring.

"They all commented on how difficult it is to get around, in and out of Lenox to other communities, and even in town, if you don't have a car," she said.

The exploration of potential walking loops also stems from two designated routes for pedestrians in Pittsfield, on North Street and in the Morningside neighborhood.

"Here in Lenox, we're so close to world-class cultural destinations such as Shakespeare & Company, Ventfort Hall and Tanglewood," Miller said.

When volunteers gather in the Lenox Community Center at 10 a.m. Thursday, representatives of WalkBoston will train them on how to conduct the audit in small groups.

From 10:30 to 11:45 a.m., participants will explore the downtown, completing their surveys. At noon, there will be a lunch and discussion at the Community Center, 65 Walker St.

"People will report what really good things they found and what could be improved upon," Miller said.

WalkBoston will compile the findings into a report for the town.

Results of the surveys also could help participants assess walking opportunities in their own neighborhoods, Miller said.

Contact Clarence Fanto at 413-637-2551.

Where to call ...

Information: Gwen Miller at 413-637-5500, ext. 1203, or Kim Graham, 413-637-5530.


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