Sanford hopes to extend bicycle trails, improve residents' health
SANFORD, Feb 17, 2013 (The Fayetteville Observer - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Sanford officials are working on a plan to extend the city's bicycle trails in hopes of improving residents' health and providing safe routes for bicycle enthusiasts.
A steering committee began work on the plan in August. It would create a network of trails and bike lanes that would connect communities throughout Sanford and Lee County.
The proposed trails would run along neighborhoods, schools, parks and healthcare facilities, said David Montgomery, Downtown Sanford development manager.
The city received a $24,500 planning grant last year from the state for the project. The city allocated $10,500 as part of the matching grant.
Consultants have completed a preliminary draft. The plan will be presented to the steering committee in the next few weeks, Montgomery said. Officials do not have a cost estimate for the project.
Officials say the bicycle plan was the next logical step after the completion of the city's pedestrian plan, which started in 2009. That plan examined the condition and extent of existing pedestrian trails and sidewalks in Sanford.
"We have seen tremendous success of the first phase of the greenway," he said. "People are using it more than anticipated. We see the bike component as being just as important to the quality of life. We have people who bike to work who don't have a car. Making a safer route for them is obviously important."
Officials see the project as a way to promote healthier and more active lifestyles to residents.
Obesity has been a priority for Lee County health officials for the past seven years, said Sandra Boyd, a health education supervisor with the Health Department and a member of the steering committee. A sedentary lifestyle is linked to health issues, including cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure, she said.
"Some people think being physically fit means you have to go to the gym. Any physical activity -- walking, working in the yard, or riding a bike -- is better than no activity," Boyd said.
Some of the older areas of the city do not have a place for residents to walk. The project would give people better access to safe trails, she said.
Bob Bridwell, Sanford's director of planning and development, sees the economic benefits of the project. Prospective home buyers are more inclined to buy a home in a community where they see its residents engaged and utilizing public facilities, he said.
"They tend to look at those places as a place to live and work," he said. "There is a rebirth today where people want to see communities that are active and people are outside doing things together."
Staff writer Venita Jenkins can be reached at email@example.com or 486-3511.
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