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Deltona moves to make neighborhoods walkable

‘Pet-estrian’-friendly — Shannen Kastner, 14, of Deltona and her cousin Ryan Kulp, 11, visiting from Boston take the Kastner family’s dogs for a late-afternoon stroll down one of the city’s newest sidewalks, along Captain Drive in Deltona July 5.

‘Pet-estrian’-friendly — Shannen Kastner, 14, of Deltona and her cousin Ryan Kulp, 11, visiting from Boston take the Kastner family’s dogs for a late-afternoon stroll down one of the city’s newest sidewalks, along Captain Drive in Deltona July 5.

PHOTO COURTESY BARBARA HANRAHAN

But not everyone likes the new sidewalks

 

A pedestrian-safety project has produced a downright Rockwell-esque side effect in areas of Deltona.

After sidewalks were installed near her street a few months ago, Barbara Hanrahan began meeting and conversing with all sorts of people. They’ve been her neighbors for years, but she never met them before a strip of walkable concrete connected their homes.

Hanrahan and her husband, Robert Hanrahan, moved into their brand-new home on Whitehorse Street in 1986.

Though the area has built up during the past three decades, most residents didn’t wander far on foot.

Heavily trafficked streets didn’t beckon walkers and joggers, who drove instead to parks or gyms. Or they stayed home, burning calories on the treadmill.

Now things are changing. Captain Drive, off of Lake Helen-Osteen Road, and just a short walk from Whitehorse, is one of several streets in the city that now have sidewalks.

“I was so excited to see the city putting the sidewalks in along Captain, thinking it would be beneficial in my daily dog walks and exercise routine,” Barbara Hanrahan said. “What I didn’t realize was it has become a conduit for community-building, too. Neighbors are meeting neighbors for the first time, as the sidewalks are something of an invitation to venture past your own property lines and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine that this beautiful state of ours is famous for.”

Walking past each other opens the portal to real communication, she’s discovered.

“This one seemingly little improvement to our city has had far-reaching positive effects,” Barbara Hanrahan added.

Not everyone is as happy as the Hanrahans about Deltona’s renewed commitment to building sidewalks.

Residents who have landscaped and maintained the edges of their property for decades are sometimes reluctant to give the space up to the city for a sidewalk.

“If you have beautiful trees in your yard, you don’t want us coming in and chopping them down,” Deltona Mayor John Masiarczyk said.

Other homeowners are resigned to the fact that they own — but do not control — the right of way at the edge of their yard.

While Public Works Director Matt Doan has seen many people walking, jogging, bike-riding and otherwise enjoying the vehicle-free pathways, he agreed there has been opposition to building more sidewalks.

“One argument people give is that they are not going to get used,” Doan said.

With a list of six to eight roads for which sidewalk construction already is contracted, the project will continue, but deciding on priorities is headed back to the drawing board.

“Right now, the city’s policy is on hold, in flux,”Doan said.

At some point — yet to be determined — the Deltona City Commission will consider a new prioritization plan likely to include connecting existing sidewalk segments, improving safety and responding to specific requests.

Hanrahan provided an example of how interconnection helped one of her neighbors.

Lake Helen-Osteen Road, which is maintained by Volusia County, had no sidewalks between Parma and Yorkshire drives.

Between those two roads sits Catalina Boulevard, which has sidewalks, and stretches to Howland Boulevard and could be a major pedestrian thoroughfare.

Doan approached Volusia County staff, who agreed to fill the gap by building the missing sidewalk segment along Lake Helen-Osteen.

“I met a young man who lives on Captain, works in Orange City, and uses our bus system to get to work,” Barbara Hanrahan said. “He must catch the bus somewhere down on Howland, I think. He mentioned to me that his walk to the bus stop is so much better and safer because of the sidewalks.”

“That one is a success story of a city working with the county,” Doan said.

Hanrahan’s neighbors Vicki and Carl Kiser have lived on Whitehorse Street for 25 years. They, too, are enjoying the new walkways.

“My husband and I just love it, because it encourages us to take longer walks and visit different areas,” Vicki Kiser said. “Before, we were confined to one small area because we didn’t want to go on Captain with no sidewalks.”

Captain, more a thoroughfare than Whitehorse, has through traffic and shoulder drop-offs that, in the past, rendered it off-limits to the couple, Kiser explained.

“We like to walk for about an hour in the evenings, and we couldn’t do that before,” she said.

When the couple’s son was young, they had to drive to Dwight Hawkins Park, nearly 2 miles away on Courtland Boulevard.

“Now, if we want to go, we can walk,” Kiser said. “And we can go all of the way down Catalina to Winn-Dixie. We can actually walk to the library.”

Aside from the convenience and increased opportunity for exercise, the Kisers enjoy seeing other residents along their walks.

“We’ve seen people out, and it’s nice to be able to speak to people in their driveways and in their yards,” Vicki Kiser said. “People are friendly. It’s just that, before, people were kind of stuck.”

Masiarczyk said the goal is for sidewalks to run past every home in Deltona.

That goal stands, he said, no matter whether there currently are children or disabled residents living in the area.

“We don’t build based on who lives there today. We build based on who’s going to move there in the future,” the mayor said.


History of sidewalks in Deltona

Mackle days — When The Mackle Co. was developing Deltona in the 1960s, the company offered a sidewalk in front of every home. It was part of a package that also included two trees and a light post, according to Deltona Mayor John Masiarczyk. 

“That was the city feel back in the Sixties,” Masiarczyk said.

Best laid plans — As the city grew, however, builders cut corners. They neglected to build sidewalks in front of every home. Some said it seemed senseless to install small sidewalk segments that didn’t lead anywhere, since there were vacant lots between the developed homes. 

Beginning of a change — In 2001, the Deltona City Commission adopted a sidewalk policy that prioritized sidewalk construction by need. Sidewalks were limited to city-owned rights of way, and building them was subject to annual budget appropriations.

The city began saving up funds to build sidewalks.

Sidewalks to schools — At first, the City of Deltona focused on building sidewalks near schools. Originally, the city intended to build sidewalks on all roads within 2 miles of every school. But people complained.   

“We’ve gone from 2 miles to 1 mile,” Masiarczyk said. “We’ve had complaints lately. People come in and say, ‘Our whole block has no kids on it.’”

Changing priorities — For the past two-and-a-half years, the focus has shifted from creating sidewalks near schools to adding them along major collector roads, such as India, Howland and Elkcam boulevards, as well as Captain Drive. Since 2004, about 55 miles of sidewalks have been completed at a cost of about $5 million, according to Deltona Public Works Director Matt Doan. Last year, the city spent $1 million on sidewalk installation.

Finding the money — In 2015, a small sum for sidewalks was contributed by the city’s general fund. More recently, sidewalk funding has come from refinanced transportation bonds, Public Works Director Doan said. 

 

-Erika Webb, erika@beacononlinenews.com

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