For the last five years, Von Smith has served as Froebel Literacy Academy’s Family and Community Specialist, a role that he views as a “privilege and responsibility.” His position involves encouraging parental involvement, improving student attendance and achievement, and developing relationships with community groups and agencies.
Mr. Smith, crossing guard Wendy Campbell, and Trailnet staff member Ginny McDonald celebrate Froebel Walk to School Day, Halloween 2015
Mr. Smith is energetic and inventive in his efforts to develop partnerships between the school, its families, and its community. The most satisfying part of his job, he says, is “reaching out to parents in an effort to ensure students’ academic success.” His efforts to engage parents and families include “steak and egg breakfasts” for men in the community, using the school as a safe site for Halloween trick or treating, and starting a chess club for Froebel students.
Several years ago, Mr. Smith organized a Leadership Development Program for third through fifth grade students. Participants are selected by their classroom teachers and focus on four goals: improving communication skills, learning to collaborate, becoming better decision-makers, and volunteering in their community. Mr. Smith recruits a variety of community organizations to work with his Leadership students, and cites these efforts to make “lasting partnerships with the community” as another part of his job that he especially enjoys.
As one of the partners involved in the Leadership Program, Trailnet has worked with the students to disseminate information about pedestrian safety and to provide ways that students can act as advocates for their community.
Alderman Spencer speaks to Leadership students and Mr. Smith.
Highlights of last year’s program included enlisting Leadership students as volunteers during a traffic calming demonstration in the neighborhood, and a visit by alderman Cara Spencer. Students had the opportunity to ask questions of Ms. Spencer and to relay their concerns about neighborhood safety. One outcome of this exchange has been a commitment from Alderman Spencer to set aside funds for crosswalk improvements around the school.
For Mr. Smith, the chance to meet with an elected official was an exciting opportunity for his young students. “It was more than we could have hoped for…to give these young leaders a chance to speak directly with their alderman,” he said.
Beginning this week, Trailnet will launch a “Pace Car Program” at the school. Students will collaborate in writing a Pace Car pledge and recruit parents and staff members as Pace Car drivers. The Pace Cars will model safe driving behaviors for other motorists in the area, obeying all traffic signs and regulations. Mr. Smith has approached this new program with his typical enthusiasm. “It will be a great way to get parents involved, and maybe even other schools – this will make the whole community safer for everyone.”
Trailnet will also work with MoDOT and Froebel’s physical education staff to offer the first Bike Week at the school this fall. Students will learn about bike safety and get a chance to try out their bike handling skills.
Many of us at Trailnet have had the pleasure of working with Mr. Smith over the years. His interactions with his students are inspiring; he never misses a chance to take an ordinary exchange and turn it into a teachable moment. He is always receptive to novel ideas, and willing to do whatever it takes to provide new opportunities for the students. He displays a deep and genuine concern for his students and their families. One issue that he particularly worries about is the amount of violence in the neighborhood. Our hope is that programs that put more people out on the streets, walking, biking and looking out for each other will make the neighborhood safer for everyone.
Dwayne James loves creating opportunities for people to challenge themselves and succeed at things they never thought they could accomplish. As a Ferguson City Council member, he worked closely with Trailnet’s Healthy Active and Vibrant Communities Initiative from 2008- 2013 to develop Live Well Ferguson, which organizes a variety of community events that bring people together for fun and exercise. Seven years ago, Live Well Ferguson organized the first Ferguson Twilight Run, an annual event that now draws up to two thousand participants.
“The first year we thought we might get 50 people to show up—we ended up with 900 people,” Dwayne said. “We get everyone from little kids, to seasoned runners, to those using a cane to walk the 5K. We’re telling people to show up however you are, as long as you do it. It’s not just good for the individuals or families, it’s good for the whole community because the community comes together and shines.”
Other annual events sponsored by Live Well Ferguson include the Twilight Ramble bicycle ride, and Sunday Parkways, an opportunity for residents to walk, bike and play on streets closed to car traffic.
Live Well Ferguson also promotes healthy food choices through Eat Well Ferguson, a program that provides nutritional information at participating local restaurants, and by offering garden plots at three community garden sites. Dwayne worked with several other residents to craft an ordinance creating the community gardens and conveyed his own excitement as a novice gardener.
“We wanted to do something positive with the empty lots that we had around town,” he said. “The great thing about community gardens is that people get out there to work and neighbors meet each other for the first time…they might live four doors apart but never knew each other. I grew my first cucumber – I was so excited! I just wanted to save it, but I had to eat it eventually.”
Another early goal of Live Well Ferguson was to craft Complete Streets legislation for Ferguson. Dwayne spearheaded this effort in 2008, making Ferguson one of the first communities in the region to pass Complete Streets.
“I am a civil engineer, so streets and infrastructure were things that I had in my back pocket,” Dwayne said. “We were already on a path to build a healthier, more active community, and I knew that designing streets that were safe for all users would be a great asset.”
Having served the maximum number of terms on the City Council, Dwayne is no longer a member, but is still an enthusiastic organizer of Live Well events and is also a Board Member of the Ferguson Youth Initiative.
FYI provides Ferguson teens with a welcoming space where they have access to activities, computers, and adult volunteers who provide tutoring. It also coordinates youth programs with other organizations, like the YMCA, Ferguson Parks and Recreation, and local schools and churches. Most importantly, FYI helped to create a Youth Advisory Board. This group of 10 teens provides a youth perspective on city issues, and gives young people a chance to participate in local government. Dwayne emphasizes the value of the Youth Board for the city as well as the teens who serve.
“It allows them to have a voice and empowers them to do things for themselves,” he said. “It also helps city officials understand what is important to our young people and ways that we can all work together to solve problems.”
Having lived in Ferguson for most of his life, Dwayne is familiar with its struggles, but positive about its future.
“We have people moving into the community, businesses that are growing, citizens stepping up to serve on the council,” Dwayne said. “Ferguson youth are doing amazing things. The schools are graduating some spectacular kids. If you don’t know the good and bad aspects of your community, then you’re not involved. I love Ferguson, I love North County, I love St. Louis. I know that there is lots of work to be done and it’s the entire community that makes things happen. There’s the person who steps up to volunteer, the person who comes out to an event and cheers the runners on, or even the resident who says ‘I’m ok with them shutting down my street to hold this event.’ I have faith in my community and know that working together we will continue to make great things happen.”
Celebrate the Active Living Awards – October 22
Join Trailnet in honoring the 2015 Active Living Award winners. These individuals, businesses, municipalities and organizations have made exemplary efforts to encourage physical activity and active transportation in our region. The awards will be presented at a reception at The Sheldon Concert Hall, followed by a performance by singer-songwriter Martin Sexton. For more information, click here.
St. Louisans are fortunate to enjoy lush greenspace in our numerous parks, fine food offered through restaurants and a growing fleet of food trucks, a vibrant art and music scene, and a champion baseball team. These many assets are clouded by statistics that rank St. Louis as one of the most dangerous cities in the country for pedestrians. In the U.S. as a whole, 12 percent of lethal traffic accidents involve pedestrians. This number compares to 14 percent in Europe and 25 percent in China. In St. Louis, 36 percent of fatal accidents affect pedestrians. In the first six months of 2015, 15 pedestrians were killed in the city of St. Louis, many in hit-and-run incidents. These sobering statistics earned St. Louis a designation as a Focus City by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, joining 21 other U.S. cities in which pedestrian deaths are higher than the national average.
A number of factors have contributed to creating this risky environment for pedestrians, most notably road designs that prioritize automobiles over pedestrian safety, and excessive speed of car traffic. Statistics indicate that pedestrians struck by cars travelling at 20 miles per hour generally suffer minor injuries and fatalities are below 10 percent. As speeds increase, the risk to pedestrians involved in collisions rises dramatically: at 30 mph, 45 percent of pedestrians who are struck suffer fatal injuries; when struck by a car traveling above 40 mph, pedestrian mortality increases to 80 percent.
Trailnet was recently awarded a Plan4Health grant in collaboration with the HEAL Partnership to improve the safety of pedestrians in the city of St. Louis. Our efforts will begin with community meetings in the Ville, Greater Ville, Carondelet, Dutchtown, and Jeff-Vander-Lou neighborhoods to learn about residents’ concerns about pedestrian safety. These meeings will be followed by walk audits and “pop-up traffic calming” demonstrations in the neighborhoods. Traffic-calming measures help to decrease vehicle speeds and provide refuges for pedestrians. These measures include infrastructure changes such as speed bumps, roundabouts and pedestrian islands.
St. Louis news of late has been filled with death, tragedy and crime. We know that’s not the entire story. There is a lot of positive activity happening below the surface of the news cycle. St. Louis has become an entrepreneurial hub. Our region has talented, creative, and energetic people working every day to create a vibrant, active region. Organizations and agencies are collaborating at an increasing rate. Together, we are focusing our collective activities towards the same targeted outcomes – economic inclusion, talent attraction, and increasing transportation options.
We are in a moment of great opportunity with significant changes in City and County staff. County Executive Stenger is working to fill high-level positions in his administration, and the selections he makes will shape the future of the region. Mayor Slay announced this week a new Chief of Staff, Deputy Chief of Staff, and Director of Operations. We applaud his decision to promote the next generation to positions of power. They know better than many which assets will bring new residents and businesses to our region.
Both City and County are working to fill vacant Director of Transportation positions. The importance of placing the right people into these positions cannot be overstated, as they will determine how streets are designed throughout the region and who can safely use them. The Directors of Transportation can choose to continue on the current path of car-centric road design or choose to diversify transportation options. They can help make St. Louis a more livable region with a North-South Metrolink line, protected bike lanes the whole family can ride, and pedestrian crossings that accommodate all people regardless of age or ability.
We are counting on our leaders to choose wisely, selecting staff who are innovative, with a collaborative and transparent nature, and are willing to work hand-in-hand with private and public businesses for the betterment of the region. We need a 21st century vision and plan for the St. Louis we want to become, and stand ready to support our leaders and put in the work to take the region to the next level.
As we plan for our future, we should always focus our energies towards principles that ensure community advancement. We must collaborate, be inclusive, and promote transparency to meet our region’s highest potential. Together, our region can lead in fostering a healthy, active community where walking, biking, and public transit are a part of our daily lives.
–Ralph Pfremmer, Trailnet Executive Director
Kirkwood Plan Review and Pop-up Plaza – October 25, 2014
An unseasonably warm day welcomed Kirkwood residents young and old to the Farmers’ Market in Downtown Kirkwood. The blue skies and pleasant fall breeze made for prime pumpkin patch and harvest market perusing and a perfect day for a Pop-up Plaza on Argonne Drive.
Early Saturday morning Trailnet staff and volunteers, including City Councilwoman Nancy Luetzow and her husband Mark, constructed makeshift infrastructure for the Pop-up Plaza. Using chalk paint, they stenciled traffic-calming apples on the streets in the area surrounding the plaza. Reflective duct tape and chalk paint were used to design crosswalks on Argonne. Kirkwood resident Mary Hanson later expressed her appreciation: “I love this crosswalk. It makes cars really kind of stop and think that there are pedestrians here and it gives you a safe place to cross.” Hay bales on either side of the plaza acted as bulb-outs – narrowing the traffic, slowing speeds, and protecting the pedestrian space.
The Pop-up Plaza served as an inviting atmosphere for residents to learn about and provide feedback on Kirkwood’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan. Planning Manager Marielle Brown and Trailnet staff were on site for questions and to further explain the elements of a bikeable, walkable community. Enthusiastic volunteers in reflective vests welcomed residents and joined them in examining large maps of Kirkwood to identify walking and biking routes and areas of concern. Resident Jennifer Pangborn Dolde explained her concerns: “I think the two big things to improve biking and walking in Kirkwood is connectivity and the speeds of vehicles.” Planning Advisory Committee members David Eagleton and Robert Trottman volunteered at the event, sharing their involvement and discussing the Master Plan with attendees. Residents also participated in the Plan Review by selecting infrastructure options they prefer for Kirkwood.
Trailnet has enjoyed working with Kirkwood since January of 2014, leading a series of meetings with the Planning Advisory Committee to develop Kirkwood’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan. The lively gathering and chatter among residents at the event revealed the community’s enthusiasm and desire to improve walkability and bikeability in the Kirkwood area. Nathan Leming, a volunteer at the event, recognized the impact stating “The downtown area is the center of the community. If you make the community more bikeable and walkable, you’ll see more people down here. There wouldn’t be as much traffic.”
Kirkwood residents are not only enthusiastic but great supporters of their community. Kirkwood resident, Jennifer Pangborn Dolde, expressed “We love the feel of community you get, just being around it, it’s the aura, it’s the people . . . We have this great downtown that draws people from all over the city.” Showing his support, Mayor of Kirkwood Arthur J. McDonnell visited with event attendees discussing the Master Plan and asking little ones about their Halloween festivities. Event volunteer and Planning Advisory Committee member, James Myers, shared “I’ve lived in Kirkwood for 12 years. It feels like a real town, it’s really close-knit.”
The input and presence of the community made Kirkwood’s Plan Review and Pop-up Plaza a success. Proactive residents showed interest in making our vision a reality in Kirkwood with valuable feedback and a desire to get involved. We hope to finalize the Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan in December 2014. For additional information and updates on the Master Plan: http://trailnet.org/work/transportation-planning/communities/kirkwood/
We pay for the roads, let’s join in how they are planned
When large road projects are built, we get a lot of people asking, “Why was the road built now? Why doesn’t it have sidewalks?” For large transportation projects, the answers can usually be traced back to the Long Range Plan produced by our metropolitan planning organization, East West Gateway Council of Governments. The Long Range Plan sets guiding principles for improving transportation in the region, along with creating a phased list of large-scale projects for the next 30 years. The plans are updated every five years, and the planning process for the next Long Range Plan is going on now.
Talking about transportation priorities in 30 year can seem abstract but the guiding principles in the Long Range Plan are the key to how approximately $40 million gets spent on transportation every year in our region. When your city or county wants to build and improve streets, intersections, sidewalks, and bicycle facilities, they often rely on transportation funds through East West Gateway. The projects are chosen using a scoring system based on the priorities in the Long Range Plan. The highest scoring projects end up in the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP), and are funded and built.
East West Gateway is working on a new Long Range Plan, so NOW is the time to speak up about your priorities for the region, and where you would like to see our money spent. East West Gateway is hosting a free speaker series at the Missouri History Museum that focuses on regional transportation issues with interactive audience polling. Click here for information and the dates for all four events.
The first event on June 18 at 7:00 pm is “Back to the Future: How St. Louis’ Transportation Past Informs our Future.” The speakers will look back at the history of transportation in St. Louis, which was founded before cars, streetcars, and even bicycles, to see what we can learn for the future. The speakers will be followed by a keypad polling session to gather public feedback on priorities.
This is a great opportunity to learn more about the history of St. Louis transportation, and make your voice heard about the future of transportation in St. Louis. In 2013, East West Gateway finished a three year, $4.6 million plan, OneSTL, to support sustainability in the region. We need to make sure the common-sense recommendations for sustainable transportation and funding are carried into the Long Range Plan. Trailnet will be at the meeting, advocating for improving and expanding sustainable transportation, including making transit, walking, and bicycling infrastructure a priority for the region.
We will also be focusing on financial sustainability. Every year, as we hear about bridges deteriorating and highways needing to be rebuilt, it is a reminder that our infrastructure does not last forever. We will be asking East West Gateway to help local governments build projects that they can afford to maintain and rebuild, when the time comes. All grant applications should include a financial plan for paying for regular maintenance on roads, along with reconstruction costs when the engineers estimate the road will need to be rebuilt, usually about 40 to 60 years.
By looking forward and anticipating our costs, we can make sure that we are building a resilient transportation system, and that we won’t burden our children with the cost of maintaining and rebuilding a transportation system we built without planning. We do this kind of long-term budgeting everyday in our own lives when we save for retirement, and in our businesses, when we set aside money to fix or replace equipment when needed. Let’s make sure our transportation budget fits the same standards. And if a local government can’t afford to replace a bridge once it can no longer support trucks, we can always look into giving the infrastructure to people walking and bicycling.
Old Chain of Rocks Bridge – formerly serving motor vehicles