Walkable Fairhope

A great deal of talk (and some effort and expense) has been devoted to the idea of making Fairhope more “walkable.” To a large extent, this entails building more sidewalks. The city fathers have been greatly assisted in this task by the efforts of the Baldwin County Trailblazers, who have raised funds and secured grants to build the Eastern Shore Trail, a walking/biking path that will ultimately extend 32 miles from the U.S.S. Alabama on the Causeway (Battleship Parkway) across Mobile Bay to Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in south Baldwin County.

Throughout the rest of the city, the Public Works department builds new sidewalks and repairs old ones as it gets the time and money. Recently a section of the sidewalk that forms part of my usual walking route was completely dug up and hauled away. Here’s how it looked before:

This stretch along North Bayview Avenue beside Knoll Park was an ordinary concrete sidewalk, somewhat broken up as a result of heavy equipment being parked on it. Although parking on sidewalks is prohibited, drivers of city utility trucks evidently considered themselves exempt. Work is currently under way to restore Knoll Park to its original condition, which has required a lot of attention from City crews, the Tree Committee, representatives of the Single Tax Corporation (which owns the property), etc., with the result that trucks were frequently parked on the sidewalk.

The new sidewalk is quite a change:

As can be seen, there is quite a substantial meander. This is typical of the new “trail” sidewalks, but this one is more extreme than most. One benefit of this layout is that there will be a parking area for City trucks near the electrical box; in fact, quite a lot of parking space can be permitted without threatening the sidewalk, and one online source suggested that an actual designated parking lot is planned.

Another difference is that, except for a few very short sections, the new path is not a conventional concrete walk but in fact is of pervious/permeable/porous concrete—kinder to the environment and possibly kinder to the feet of those who walk on it (though perhaps not to their shoes, as it has a very rough texture. It remains to be seen how durable it will be, but its absorbency is graphically illustrated in wet weather, when the conventional concrete remains starkly white and the porous type turns very dark grey.

The downside to this sidewalk is that it will make the walk from Fairhope Avenue to Magnolia Avenue somewhat farther, which could affect walking/running times. I haven’t yet decided whether I’ll suck it up and use the new sidewalk (even though it, in a sense, takes me out of my way) or start walking in the street instead.

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