“Age-Friendly” details discussed for Tattnall Square Park

Will be model for AARP-urged designs countywide

jgaines@macon.comNovember 9, 2012 

Tattnall Square Park and its surroundings are intended to become a model for how to make the rest of Macon and Bibb County “age friendly,” and 16 recommendations for how to change that target area were discussed Friday.

“We want to make sure all the parks in the area can also be age friendly, family friendly,” said Karen Cooper, AARP Georgia associate state director. Making parks and many other areas accessible to the elderly also makes them more welcoming for families and people in general, she said.

Bibb County Commission Chairman Sam Hart has mentioned he’d like to see the same new features at Central City Park, Cooper said.

About 30 representatives from local governments, businesses and various organizations -- all concerned with aging issues in some way -- went over the 82-page report from Dan Burden and Samantha Thomas of the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute. Burden toured Tattnall Square Park on Aug. 9. He did so as one of the first steps in implementing Macon-Bibb County’s designation as an “Age-Friendly Community” by the AARP.

That program, a partnership between AARP and the World Health Organization, began in April in seven states and the District of Columbia. Macon-Bibb County was announced as the first to win the designation, which is supposed to spark two years of planning and three years of implementation.

It requires the city and county to evaluate the age friendliness of eight “domains,” including outdoor spaces and buildings, transportation, housing, social participation, respect and social inclusion, civic participation and employment, communication and information, community support and health services.

Sam Henderson, an executive assistant to Mayor Robert Reichert, told the group that consolidation of city and county government in January 2014 provides an opportunity to institutionalize age friendly ideas in planning.

“You have a great opportunity now to help shape how the new Macon-Bibb government will look,” he said.

In the first 100 days after receiving the designation, the community is supposed to assemble a working group on the idea and set priorities. Much of that has been done in 30 days, thanks to support from political leaders and heavy community interest, said Myrtle Habersham, AARP key volunteer for Macon and Bibb County.

Burden’s 16 key findings deal with visibility, pedestrian access, troublesome intersections, clear markings, better use of space and existing features, ADA compliance, and slimming streets to slow traffic and make crossing easier.

The College Hill Corridor master plan has general guidelines for changes to Tattnall Square Park already, said Nadia Osman from the College Hill Alliance. Her office put together more specific proposals and has given those to local park authorities.

Burden’s report said that in Macon generally and around Tattnall Square itself, there are plenty of “fat streets” -- too many vehicle lanes, which encourage speeding and make it hard to cross. But that very width makes it easier to install better sidewalks, landscaping and bicycle lanes, while narrowing the vehicle path will slow traffic to an ideal of 20 to 30 mph, according to the report.

Narrower streets will be tough to sell to drivers, said Bill Causey of the Bibb County Engineering Department.

“They like it big and wide and straight,” he said.

But it’s already being done on Pine Street, in front of The Medical Center of Central Georgia, specifically to make it easier for walkers to enter the hospital, Causey said.

He compared it to early opposition to the first section of the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail, which he helped plan. That was a simple project on city-owned land, but it was “hammered” by local critics who called it a waste, Causey said.

“Well, we went ahead and did it anyway, and it’s probably the most popular thing Macon-Bibb has done in the last 50 years,” he said. That visible success made it easier to get public support for future segments, Causey said.

To contact writer Jim Gaines call 744-4489.

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