The Bedroom Center provides township with useful information for sidewalk construction

THE PATH MORE TRAVELED: A path leads along the frontage of The Bedroom Center on Perry Street, after the business is a patch of wetland which forces pedestrians to walk a tight path between a retaining barrier and a deceleration lane leading to Wal-Mart. (Pioneer photo/Adam Gac)

THE PATH MORE TRAVELED: A path leads along the frontage of The Bedroom Center on Perry Street, after the business is a patch of wetland which forces pedestrians to walk a tight path between a retaining barrier and a deceleration lane leading to Wal-Mart. (Pioneer photo/Adam Gac)

BIG RAPIDS TWP. — Plans for a new stretch of sidewalk along Perry Street moved forward Tuesday, owing in part to the efforts of one of the businesses whose frontage would be changed by the project.

The Bedroom Center on Perry Street is owned by Ralph Burns, who said the area has changed significantly since the store opened in 1987. The increase in the number of businesses in the area has reshaped the township and the nature of Perry Street.

During one of the discussions on the proposed construction, the question of how many people are walking along Perry Street was raised – which prompted staff of The Bedroom Center to start keeping an informal tally of the people using the path in front of the store, according to general manager Jenny Hutchinson.

“The real danger point is just as you get up to the first drive, the deceleration lane for the gas station at Wal-Mart, where there’s a barrier for the wetlands,” Burns said. “People can’t get by – they have to walk out in the street.”

“We recognize the people who walk to work every day and you see families,” Hutchinson said. “Especially once school starts, you see more families who don’t have vehicles with young children walking along the roadway. We see people pushing their infant babies on Perry Street while holding a two-year-old toddler’s hand.”

Staff of The Bedroom Center kept a tally during the late summer and early fall of last year. Employees still went about their business throughout the day, so the count was not scientifically accurate, but the information was enough to give the Big Rapids Township Board of Trustees a rough estimate of the number of people passing by, between 12 and 15 a day, with a steady stream once Ferris State University is in session, Burns said.

Providing a sidewalk for residents should be a requirement for businesses that want to service the township or the city, Burns said, adding that alternative transportation methods may not work for everyone.

“At the meeting someone brought up the Dial-A-Ride as an alternative to a sidewalk,” Burns said. “Dial-A-Ride is a great system, but low income families, especially if they have children with them, can’t afford to take Dial-A-Ride out of the city to do their shopping.“

The worn path along the frontage of The Bedroom Center is used year-round, Hutchinson said.

“Walkers ask us to plow differently so they can still walk during the winter,” she said. “They have to climb the snow banks or walk in the street, so we try to accommodate them by asking our plow guy to leave the area more accessible.”

The construction of the sidewalk is a necessity, Hutchinson said. The project impacts residents, businesses and property owners, who were entitled to participate in the project’s development because of their location.

“There’s a need for it. We tried to look at it a number of different ways and asked a lot of people for their input,” she said.

The input wasn’t as forthcoming as hoped, although lack of participation in public hearings meant very few complaints were heard, according to Hutchinson.

“Every single time we had a meeting we sent out an email to everyone involved and no one came,” she said. “I know Venlo offered a written objection, but no one from Venlo was at any sidewalk meeting, ever.”

Burns stressed the importance of continuing to support the project during the next public hearing at 7 p.m. on Sept. 1 at the Big Rapids Township Hall.

“The sidewalk is necessary for safety and for quality of life in town,” Burns said. “You should be able to let your kids take a walk to the store. We have this beautiful bike trail going along the river and through town, but nobody can walk or bike to the grocery stores.”

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Posted by Adam Gac

Adam is the Pioneer City/County Reporter, covering government in Mecosta County. He can be reached by e-mail at agac@pioneergroup.com or by phone at (231) 592-8347.

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