Anyone expecting a morning stroll would result in immediate solutions to neighborhood problems would have been disappointed, but the 28 people who accompanied Mayor Chuck Charles on his first “Walk with the Mayor” Saturday were generally upbeat.
“I’ve met several neighbors I didn’t know. Some of them live right down the street,” said Sheila Rice. She lives on Newman Street, one of the residential byways through which the band of walkers promenaded over the course of a cool and breezy hour in South Ashland.
“This is a good idea because if we don’t know each other, we can’t work together,” said Jacqui Thornburg, who attended the walk because her daughter lives in the neighborhood.
“This is a community with a lot of pride, and I think they’re learning about their own neighborhood like I am,” said Charles, who has been planning the walks since taking office earlier this year.
Charles showed up for the walk in windbreaker, golf cap and Nikes, with his chocolate lab Remington at his side.
His two-pronged strategy for the walks is to promote walking for fitness and offer constituents a venue for airing community issues.
On the second, he got an earful, mainly from residents frustrated at the burgeoning population of deer which raid gardens throughout the neighborhood.
“It’s nothing for deer to be in the street,” said Pat Blevins, who lives at the corner of Hampton and Crooks streets. “I’ve seen four at a time in my yard.”
Bill and Mary Burch of Forest Avenue said living in the wooded, hilly neighborhood “is like living in a petting zoo,” with deer, raccoons and other urbanized wildlife seemingly unthreatened by their proximity with humankind. Homeowners have to keep refuse cans secured and few gardens are safe from marauding deer, they said.
Hampton Street resident Richard May said he wants work on sidewalks, which he said on some streets haven’t been fixed in years. He said he was skeptical whether the walks would be helpful. “I’m here anyway. I’ll put my pitch forward and see what happens.”
Bringing such issues to his attention was what prompted Charles to initiate the walks. He didn’t make any promises Saturday, but said he would alert the city commission to concerns that were passed along to him.
Amanda Clay lives in a different neighborhood, Montgomery Avenue near Central Park, but she walked Saturday and said she plans to attend as many of the mayor’s walks as possible. “He’s the first mayor I’ve seen who seems interested in the neighborhoods. I’m interested in seeing what people in the neighborhoods are interested in. It’s a good way to get to know the town,” she said.
The walks are an easier way to mingle and get to know people, she said.
Charles said he will ask commissioners to figure walkways and bikeways into their planning for future street projects. “We’ve got to make our neighborhoods more walkable,” he said.
Other walks are scheduled for May 4 and 18, June 1 and 22, July 13 and 27 and Aug. 10.
MIKE JAMES can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2652.