More than 250 years ago, George Washington walked through Cranberry along an Indian footpath we now refer to as the Venango Trail. Although it must have been scenic, and I am sure he got a lot of exercise, it was actually a business trip for him, and the route he took was the fastest and most direct way of getting from Point A to Point B.
You can still follow in Washington’s footsteps – the Venango Trail is essentially today’s Franklin Road alignment – but you would have to do so at your own peril. Over the years Cranberry, like most other American communities, slipped away from the idea of walking as an important form of mobility and instead built its connecting routes around motor vehicles. Pedestrian traffic has become marginalized almost to the vanishing point. And it’s just not safe to walk on roadways.
As far as I can tell, motor vehicles will continue to be a primary form of mobility in Cranberry, as well as the principal method for moving goods, for generations to come. But there are a lot of people here, myself included, who think we may have gone too far in pushing out pedestrians to accommodate cars. In both our 1995 and 2009 comprehensive plans, one of the top issues that concerned residents was the difficulty of walking safely to a nearby store or neighborhood. They thought it was unnatural to have to drag two tons of steel along on an errand to pick up a quart of milk. And besides, not everyone has a car or a drivers license.
So we’re doing something about it. Although we’ve required developers to add sidewalks as a condition of receiving building permits for some years now, we’re still some distance from having a coherent system of walkways. And there’s no plan in place to create one – at least not yet. But that’s about to change.
We’ve had several groups of residents looking into ways we can expand and integrate our walkways and bike paths into a cohesive network – possibly using portions of the Township’s own road and utility rights of way. And they’ve come up with some recommendations. At 6:30 on July 27, we’re inviting anyone who’s interested – especially bicyclists and walking enthusiasts – to stop by the Municipal Center to review those recommendations and offer their own ideas about what the priorities for developing these pathways ought to be. And that will help us take the next step.