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Seeking a safer, walkable Suquamish

SUQUAMISH — While Kingston has spent the past year trying to figure out how to expand its urban growth area boundaries, its neighbors to the south have been rewriting their own subarea plan to simply create a safer and more walkable community.

The Suquamish Rural Village Subarea Plan has been under the critical eye of a group of residents that has been focused on modifying the community’s subarea plan, primarily its parks, trails, open spaces and transportation facilities.

Since the completion of the last plan in 1999, the community hasn’t changed as much as the communities that feed into it, such as Bainbridge and Kingston and the increase in ferry traffic, said group member Kevin McDonald. Part of the group’s work the past year has been researching and finding ways to make the area safer when it comes to traffic and pedestrian access, with the focus being on Suquamish Elementary. And the effort to create better pedestrian access within communities is a nationwide movement, McDonald said.

“We don’t have to fight the idea of building paths, people are very open to that idea,” he said. “The environment has changed a lot since the ‘99 plan. We’re lucky in that we can ride on the coattails of those programs and move it forward.”

One of the group’s other major concerns about the plan was how effective it will be. Residents have been coming up with wish lists of projects that need to be taken care of within the community, but no action has really ever been taken to see the projects through, he said.

“This plan was going to be more focused on projects and ideas that we felt that could be accomplished within a reasonable period of time,” McDonald said.

As the plan moves through the process for recommendation and approval by the Kitsap Planning Commission and Kitsap County Board of Commissioners the next six weeks, respectively, the group wants to start a citizens advisory group, similar to the Kingston Citizens Advisory Committee. The purpose of the group is to meet once a month to discuss ongoing issues and projects in the area, as well as encourage and support the county in seeing community projects become a reality. McDonald said the group also wants to further encourage stronger connections between the community’s most active players — the Suquamish Tribe, North Kitsap School District, Kitsap County and Kitsap Transit.

Kitsap County transportation planning manager Greg Cioc, who worked with the group on the transportation issues in the community, doesn’t see any major changes between the 1999 plan and the proposed 2005 plan, but has observed how residents are trying to work together to become more active in making the area safer.

“There is a little sense of civic pride going on,” Cioc said.

Even with the tribe talking about making some changes to its buildings within downtown, “that says there is growth for a small town,” he said.

By putting in sidewalks and adding street lamps, that alone will create a more community-like atmosphere, he said, as many are concerned about the inadequate streets surfaces and lack of lighting.

With the upcoming stormwater improvement projects that are expected to take place within the next two years along Center Street and Augusta Avenue, that funding will help pay for repaving of roads, making them more walkable, Cioc added. The county also has funding available to develop a rural corridor program, in which studies would be done to explore ways to minimize the impact of passing-through traffic on the urban cores of small communities along Miller Bay Road, including Suquamish.

The discussion on making some of the streets in Suquamish one way has also come up again, Cioc said, as it first initiated 10 years ago when a petition from the community was sent to the county addressing possible one-way routes to help promote pedestrian safety. With the safe walking paths issue being the predominate theme of this plan revision, “that’s why one-ways might be pulled off this time,” Cioc said, noting that it would be possible to look into making Geneva and Center streets one-way.

Traffic calming measures, recognized bike routes, creating a gateway into the community to reinforce its identity and shoulder improvements are just some of the many ideas Cioc and the residents put into the plan.

The primary goal, from Cioc’s point of view, is to establish a list of the projects and get it approved.

“To get (the list) in the plan is critical because once it gets in there, we can go after funding,” he said.

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