Gurnee has launched an advisory committee charged with suggesting options to help make the village more walkable and easier to traverse for bicyclists.
Projected to finish its work by the middle of next year, the volunteer committee's recommendations will be forwarded to Mayor Kristina Kovarik and the village board for potential action. Making Gurnee easier to get around on foot and bicycle -- possibly by filling in sidewalk gaps or building new trails -- is part of a long-term village government goal.
The advisory blue-ribbon committee on walkability and biking includes Gurnee Park District Executive Director Susie Kuruvilla, who has been at the forefront of the park system's Go Gurnee initiative. It encourages residents to walk at least 30 minutes a day for health benefits.
"We're a great community," Kuruvilla said after Tuesday's committee session, "and I think a lot of the people would like the opportunity to have more connectivity throughout our community to enjoy it more and get the exercise they need and to connect with families and friends."
Gurnee residents provided feedback on walkability and biking in an online survey during the summer. Officials said 430 residents participated during a two-week period.
Topping the residents' wish list are improving trail connections, building new sidewalks and upgrading pedestrian crossings. Specifically, the survey showed the Grand Avenue-Hunt Club Road intersection, Route 21 near Six Flags Great America's rear entrance and Washington Street as areas where improved pedestrian and bicycle access would be most beneficial.
Constructing sidewalks in all business parks and building paths to bus stops for pedestrians were other suggestions from the survey.
Richard McFarlane, chairman of the advisory committee that formed in September, said an initial move could be as simple as placing maps on the village website showing routes for safe walking and bike trails.
Any recommendations to help bicyclists in the village may not dovetail with what would benefit walkers, committee member Bob Shuppert said.
"For the plan and the vision, we have to have more or less two approaches," Shuppert said.
In the survey, it was noted identifying a funding source would be a challenge to improve path and sidewalk access for pedestrians and bicyclists. Survey respondents said they preferred using surplus money from the end of a budget year or diverting funds earmarked for other capital improvement projects to assist walkers and bikers.
Kuruvilla said residents likely would need encouragement to use new sidewalks or paths if they are built. She said she hopes the park district's Go Gurnee walking initiative would help to create the culture for the paths and sidewalks to become busy places.
"I think Go Gurnee is the movement that's going to have to stand behind it," she said. "The village can build the infrastructure and the park district can create the movement that goes along with it and the culture."