By Diane Wagner
On McDonough Road in Lovejoy, more than a mile of sidewalk connects subdivision entrances with a high school, a regional park and the shopping centers on the corner of U.S. Highway 19/41.
Maurice Taylor took advantage of the path Friday to trot his work permit over to the Chick-fil-A restaurant. The Lovejoy High School senior does not own a car?yet.
"That's why I'm working," Taylor said.
Meanwhile, he counts on the network of sidewalks to get him to centers of activity. The young Taylor said he doesn't consider the walkways a perk. It's something he expects.
"This is a neighborhood," he said. "People have to walk to school, so they should be here."
The city of Stockbridge has launched an aggressive sidewalk campaign focusing first on the bustling Flippen Road and North Henry Boulevard area.
City Manager Ted Strickland said a new grant worth about $1.5 million will go toward sidewalks from Rock Quarry Road to the bridge in front of City Hall. Lee Street and, at some point, East Atlanta Road are on the list.
"We hope to come all the way through with sidewalks, streetscaping and street lights," he said. "We want to encourage people to get out of their cars, to walk to parks and shops."
Stockbridge is apparently on the right track. A real estate Web site, www.relocate-america.com, just put the city in its Top 100 Places to Live for 2002.
"We are a progressive city," Strickland said. "The mayor and council strive to meet the needs of the community, keep the city clean, provide the facilities the public needs. Streetscaping is part of that effort."
Sidewalk construction is a relatively new concept in the parts of Henry and Clayton counties outside established city centers.
Henry County veterinarian James Waggoner agreed to install sidewalks in front of his new clinic at Ga. Highway 155 and Crumbley Road, but pointed out that they won't be going anywhere.
A "sidewalk to nowhere" runs along Jonesboro Road in front of the year-old Henry Town Center shopping center, and another segment curves back along the entrance to Sam's Club and Peachtree Peddlers across the street
"We're asking every new business to put them in," said Frederick Gardiner, assistant director of the planning and zoning department. "It will ensure future development will have connectivity from neighborhoods to commercial."
Clayton County Community Development Director Eddie Williams said the county encourages sidewalks in new subdivisions, although it is not required. And the overtures are meeting positive responses.
"It's been a norm here lately," Williams said. "All of the builders have been putting them in anyway. It does make a neighborhood look better."
Donna Harrow of Home Power Realty Inc. sells homes in both Clayton and Henry counties. Harrow said most buyers base their decisions on lot size and the quality of the house, but internal sidewalks boost the attraction of a subdivision.
"For some people they really are a big deal, although it could go either way," she said. "Sidewalks and streetlights are considered a safety issue for some. I've had others say they wish there were sidewalks, but that didn't stop them from buying."
Henry County and the city of Morrow were two of eight local communities selected to participate in the Atlanta Regional Commission Walkable Communities Initiative. The pilot program is aimed at making the area more pedestrian-friendly.
Sidewalks are also integral transportation modes in the state-sponsored Liveable Centers Initiative, Mainstreet and Better Hometown programs.
The cities of Stockbridge, Morrow, Forest Park and Jonesboro have been accepted into the LCI program. McDonough is a Mainstreet city and Hampton is part of the Better Hometown program.