Junction City learned last week that three new City Commissioners will begin terms in 2018, as current Commissioners Mick McCallister, Mike Ryan and Jim Sands each will not seek re-election.
This leaves three vacant seats, and as candidates begin to file, one issue that all City Commission candidates must consider is the state of our city’s infrastructure — specifically when it comes to recreation.
Local leaders have stressed the importance of staying local and enjoying the amenities we have right in our backyard. Yet what is often overlooked is the state of our sidewalks and our street lighting. We have many places with inadequate sidewalks and lighting,
meaning pedestrians are more at-risk of physical danger just by trying to get from Point A to Point B.
Take Jackson Street and Ash Street, for example. These could be considered two of the more heavily-traveled streets in Junction City, both by vehicles and by pedestrians. Parts of Ash Street — specifically west of Eisenhower Drive — have no sidewalks. Jackson Street, meanwhile, has sidewalks that run for one or two blocks on one side of the street — then end and pick up again on the other side of the street, forcing pedestrians to either walk on the road or continually cross the street to access the next segment of the sidewalk. In other places, sidewalks run steady for three or four blocks, then inexplicably stop for a block, then continue again (Skyline Drive is an example of this).
These are just a few examples of places where sidewalks are inconsistent or nonexistent. And in other places, residents block the sidewalks already in place with their parked cars. These are all significant problems, especially because of how many children walk to and from school, parks and the pool, as they sometimes are less aware of their surroundings.
Street lighting is also another concern. I’ve noticed many nights where I drive down streets and see lights that are either off, or are giving off next-to-no light at all. This is a problem both for motorists and pedestrians, as not motorist obeys the speed limit, and a driver going 40 mph in a 30-mph zone — lights on or not — is going to have less time to react to a pedestrian trying to cross the street.
But lighting is not just an issue on our roadways — it’s an issue in parks, too. Many parks have posted hours of until after sunset, yet the lighting does not invite people to enter the park after dark. One example is at Homer’s Pond, where some lights appear to be on motion-sensor, but lights do not trigger until one is physically under
the light, meaning until one gets to the light, it’s tough to see what’s ahead. Could someone be lurking in the dark, waiting to jump an innocent park-goer? Or how about an animal that might feel endangered because someone is running by? Is that a risk we want to have?
Our new city leaders, whoever they may be, should be vigilant in making Junction City a safer community by taking a proactive stance for improving the city’s sidewalks and lighting. We all want Junction City to be a safe place, one where people can get out at all hours of the day and enjoy physical activity.
ALIX KUNKLE is a regular contributor to the Junction City Daily Union.