ARCHIVE: Sidewalks would support local “green” lifestyle

Trish Baker, Leon Springs Resident

Story and photo by Pamela Price

This story originally appeared in the Leon Springs Community News, June 2010 edition.

For Trish Baker, crossing Boerne Stage Road near the Baywater Stage bridge is a daily habit.

“I go across the street to visit friends at the [Stage Run] neighborhood pool and at their home. I go to garage sales, as well,” says Baker, a resident of The Lodge at Leon Springs who uses a scooter. “I travel down it to H.E.B. and to my primary care doctor’s office and also to my allergy doctor at different times.”

One of Baker’s caregivers, Kay Anders, says of Baker, “She loves to go anywhere… or just travel around looking at the plants in the Hill Country. She loved looking at the wild flowers when they were in bloom.”

Does the regular Boerne Stage Road traveler consider the historic roadway safe for pedestrians?

“No, not all, because of the need for a walkway, or sidewalks, away from the highway,” Baker says, adding “Being able to use or cross Boerne Stage, on my own and not feel afraid, or unsafe because of the traffic, is extremely important to me as a stroke survivor… I have been able to make friends in different areas and maintain a sense of independence because of the road. A sidewalk would make so many lives easier and safer.”

As Leon Springs transitions from a semi-rural to suburban community, foot traffic on Boerne Stage appears to be increasing slowly.

From the front desk of Dutch Boy Cleaners in the Leon Springs Retail and Office Park, Katee Storie has a good view of the Boerne Stage Road and Baywater Stage intersection. Recently she witnessed a collision resulting when one car swerved to avoid someone crossing the road. The experience left her convinced that sidewalks are needed. “We need them for the safety of everyone, including drivers. We see them swerve all the time, mostly for the bicycles,” says Storie, who reports that most of the foot traffic she witnesses takes place on the road’s south side.

Kim Bowen, a Two Creeks resident, and her children travel beside Boerne Stage Road on her bike to the Cross Mountain Church’s preschool program twice a week. “Sometimes I drive, sometimes I take the bike. It depends on the weather,” she says. “I’m nervous about being on the roadway, so I stick to the gravel. Crossing the road is scary. I always commit to taking my time. Fortunately, where we cross, it’s pretty flat and the visibility is good.”

For Bowen, like Baker, pedestrian access to the local grocery store as well as the Saturday farmer’s market in the Leon Springs Baptist Church lot is important to her quality of life.

“I think it’s cool that we’re so close to so many things. We looked out in Stone Oak’s neighborhoods when we moved here, but the housing was so far away from stores. We can walk to schools here. It’s like a little town. I know how things work and that money (for roads and sidewalks) takes time, but I’d like to see what drew us out here preserved. Sidewalks would help.”

Bowen’s desire is one shared by Mario Obledo, Jr., a Stage Run resident and founding manager of the weekly farmer’s market.

“People are walking and riding their bikes to the Saturday market. Baby strollers, too. That’s eye-opening, and sidewalks would only support the lifestyle that we are trying to encourage,” says Obledo. “More and more Leon Springs families are committed to living more sustainably. We’ve seen that with support of both the market and our Leon Springs Green Fest event last fall. I see families walking across Boerne Stage Road to shop at the market, and we ought to be encouraging that sort of ‘green’ lifestyle. Sidewalks would be a big help, and I’d like to see the city and county work to create sidewalks sooner rather than later.”

For their part, Bexar County’s $10.7 million project to raise Boerne Stage Road and improve drainage–as reported in this newspaper’s May 2010 issue–does not include the creation of sidewalks. The roadway will be engineered to support sidewalks, but according to Anna Esquivel, a civil engineering assistant with Bexar County’s Infrastructure Services Department, “…the county and the consultant, AECOM, does not want to mislead the public into thinking that the actual design of the sidewalks are integrated into this project. That would be a total separate project. An engineer would have to be hired to analyze how to add the sidewalks outside the ditch areas which entails acquiring easements in many locations.”

Esquivel adds that during the construction phase, “The county does not recommend for any pedestrians to walk or bike near the construction zone during construction…. No shoulder will be provided during construction; it will only be traffic lanes. Just like motorists will be inconvenienced during construction, so will all of the other components of the ‘traveling public’. The county hopes that the public with cooperate with us by following the advisory signs to keep the road as safe as possible during construction.”

For Baker and others, the prospect of such an inconvenience is frustrating–even with the glimmer of hope that forthcoming improvements may pave a way for better pedestrian routes in the long run. “It is imperative that sidewalks are provided at this time while the contractors are still here, for safety’s sake,” Baker says, “for those of us who must travel by scooters at times when our families aren’t able to be with us, or for those who walk Boerne Stage Road everyday to have safe access to the local businesses.”

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