SHERIDAN — Parking and pedestrians moved to the forefront of conversation during a community feedback meeting for the Downtown Sheridan Streetscape Action Plan.
A draft of the plan provides strategies and recommended actions for improving the city’s downtown in conjunction with a Wyoming Department of Transportation project in 2023, The Sheridan Press previously reported. The goal of the project is to keep Main Street safe, comfortable and accessible for all modes of travel and all age groups, economically vibrant, functioning as a gathering place, connected to natural areas and parks, mitigating through traffic and preserving what people already love about it.
Suggestions to create four feet of additional curbing at crosswalks transformed into citizens voicing concerns about a lack of awareness about pedestrian-first driving.
“I think it’s great to look at things that make pedestrians more safe,” Century 21 realtor Marie Lowe said. “But I think there’s a real need for a whole community education on stopping for pedestrians and being aware of pedestrians. Of any place I’ve ever been, this town is the worst.”
Lowe suggested education as part of any changes being made on Main Street.
The four feet of additional curbing on either side of the street would sustain the four lanes of traffic. Community development director Brian Craig said the city is no longer considering the option of potentially expanding the sidewalks to make the flow of traffic two lanes instead of four.
A benefit of the curbside expansion included shorter walk time on the street for pedestrians crossing the road. Deterrents to the expansion on the street corners included less parking spaces on Main Street and less room for bicyclists traveling with traffic on the road.
Jillian Sutherland of Community Builders, the contractor assisting the city of Sheridan in the project, asked participants at Tuesday’s meeting to consider parking in other areas of the city if those few parking spots were eliminated with the additional curbing.
The economic benefit versus parking was also a dividing factor when discussing potential plans for Grinnell Plaza.
“There’s a trade-off,” said Matt Westkott, a realtor and member of the Downtown Sheridan Association. “There’s a trade-off with access; there’s a trade-off with parking. But all of these ideas have some trade-off to it.”
Grinnell Plaza plans would transform the area into a full-time plaza or a seasonal or part-time plaza or keep it the same with possible slight adjustments to beautification or sidewalk features.
Verdello owner Kathy Bede said completely closing off Grinnell would kill her and her husband Mark’s business, as they have seen the decline in customer walk-ins when they temporarily close the street for events.
Several community members also voiced concerns of losing the prime parking spaces currently held within Grinnell Plaza. Conversely, others spoke in favor of the full- or part-time plaza idea, attributing it to the concept of Main Street as a gathering place as expressed in the project’s list of six goals.
Because of a conflict with the political candidate forum also held Tuesday night, Craig said the city will hold a similar public Streetscape meeting Aug. 22 for those unable to attend Tuesday. Experimentation of ideas brought up and collected by the city will begin next spring and summer.
The Streetscape project draft can be found at sheridanmainstreet.com, and comments on the project are welcomed by Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org.