Town of Signal Mountain residents' longstanding requests for more walking paths throughout the town may soon be answered.
Local planners last week unveiled their master plan for alternative transportation infrastructure throughout the area.
If adopted and funded by the town council, the proposed plan would bring miles of new bicycle lanes and pedestrian facilities, like sidewalks and walkways, to Signal Mountain over the next 20 years.
The plan was created by an informal, six-member group of town residents and officials over the last year. Part of their goal was to foster town-wide connectivity by linking existing trails and sidewalks, giving pedestrians and cyclists safer access to various neighborhoods and social hubs within the town.
Group member Jennifer Williams, regional planner for the Southeast Tennessee Development District, said one of the features residents showed the most interest in during the group's open house presentation Oct. 30 was a proposed multi-use path that would stretch along Taft Highway from Palisades Drive to Albert Road, connecting the town's two business districts.
Cheryl Graham, town of Signal Mountain Planning Commission chair
Jennifer Williams, Southeast Tennessee Development District regional planner
Loretta Hopper, town Public Works director
Dan Landrum, town council member
Anne Hagood, Tree Board member
Boyd Veal, town manager
Visit to view a draft of the proposed master plan online. Then visit surveymonkey.com/r/SignalMtn_bike_ped to give your input on needed transportation infrastructure. The cutoff date for the survey is Nov. 15.
The greenway-like path would also pass the town's recreational area, giving local kids a safer way to get to the amenities behind the Signal Mountain Town Hall Complex, like the pool.
Another aspect of the proposed plan residents showed interest in, planners said, was an expansive bicycle path and pedestrian facility that would connect Signal Mountain Middle/High School to several neighborhoods throughout the town, including nearby subdivisions like Windtree, Wild Ridge and Dogwood Grove.
Group member Anne Hagood said the option to safely walk or bike to school would be attractive for families moving to Signal Mountain, as well as for runners and cyclists who drive up the mountain to train.
"It's beautiful country, and great topography for training and getting a good workout, [but] so unsafe," said Hagood, who cycles along Timberlinks Drive. "There's a wide shoulder now on Timberlinks, but when we have a bike path it's going to improve the safety of that, and therefore the pleasure of it, significantly."
The bike and pedestrian paths leading up to the school would also connect to existing trails at Prentice Cooper State Forest, which recreationalists can already follow down to Rainbow Lake and Signal Point, Hagood noted.
Open house attendee Che Carico, who serves on the Signal Mountain Playhouse board, said members of the community theater were particularly excited about the additional safety one of the proposed projects would lend to visitors leaving the theater late at night.
Many Playhouse guests park near the tennis courts behind town hall, Carico explained, meaning they must walk on Rolling Way in the dark to get back to their vehicles once each show has concluded. Though audiences usually leave in large groups and the town parks a firetruck on Rolling Way and shines its lights along the street to increase visibility, Carico said there are always risks.
"The playhouse is excited to think that this will be added to make it safer for people leaving the plays at night," she said.
The open house session was one of two methods the group has employed to get feedback on its master plan. The other is a survey still available online.
Williams said the planners will use the input to identify any areas they might have missed in their proposal. After they've completed their final plan, they will present the top five to 10 projects to the town council for consideration. Total costs from the entire project have not been calculated, and no funds have yet been promised by town officials.
Williams said the group hopes to make is presentation to the council in early 2018.