Sidewalk removal is a safety issue

There are signs across Rainy River District proclaiming this area as a “Safe Community”—a title bestowed by the World Health Organization.
The designation was earned because district communities recognized the importance of eliminating physical barriers and being inclusive to all.
Today, however, would our community be capable of showing that it still is a “Safe Community”?
Our first question to the community is, “Is it safer to walk on a sidewalk or on the road?” The second one is, “Would you prefer your child or handicapped parent to walk on the sidewalk or the road?”
I would like to challenge all seven members of town council to push themselves in wheelchairs along Third Street and Colonization Road West, where today no sidewalk exists.
Try being handicapped. Try wheeling yourself along the footpath. Try crossing the highway in a cart or wheelchair and then pulling yourself up a driveway.
Looking back almost a decade, the first action taken by council to make Fort Frances a “Safe Community“ was to make playgrounds safer. Spearheaded by then Mayor Glenn Witherspoon, loose sand was placed around all the equipment to protect the youngsters playing on the equipment.
Fort Frances then began an aggressive program to put curb eases in at all corners, which made pushing strollers and wheelchairs across intersections easier. It also made it possible for people needing scooters to cross at corners rather than drive on the street from one driveway to another.
Now in Fort Frances, our council feels that sidewalks are not necessary.
The first threat came to remove sidewalks on the east side of Portage Avenue from First Street through Third Street.
Fortunately, they came to their senses and the sidewalk was not removed.
Earlier, when residents had balked at replacing sidewalks on the south side of Colonization Road West from Central Avenue past the west-end cemetery, council chose to remove the sidewalk. Residents who want to walk on the sidewalk now must cross the busy four-lane highway.
It is not a safe activity.
Council now feels that removing the sidewalk from the east side of Armit Avenue, from Church Street to the riverfront, is a good idea because repairing it to safe provincial standards is too expensive.
Throughout the community, Public Works has gone along the sidewalks, first marking the uneven spots with fluorescent paint and then grinding down or cutting off the raised and broken edges to reduce potential stumbling from taking place.
That is making walking on our sidewalks safer.
The long-term plan should be to replace those sidewalks, and the easiest way to do that is to have the residents where the sidewalks run pay for it. Historically, that is how the sidewalks were built in the first place.
Demographics tell us that across the district, more people will require assistive devices to move about our communities. Another statistic we tend to forget is that more people every year end up in the emergency rooms of our hospitals from falls.
Healthy, active lifestyles include walking and getting about our community. We need to remember that as we age, many of our abilities are reduced and many of our citizens become physically handicapped.
If making sidewalks safe for 80-year-olds is good, then toddlers and all age groups benefit. Removing sidewalks will not make Fort Frances a safer community for all of our citizens.
Can we really say to our community, that if you need a wheelchair, walker, or scooter to get about town, you really don’t count because council does not believe a sidewalk in front of your home is important?

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