GRASS VALLEY, Calif. October 24, 2016 – Informal community organizations can cooperate to create positive change. The Sidewalk Gang, a neighborhood group at the Gold Country Senior Village in Grass Valley, has been partnering with the Department of Public Works and with the FREED Center for Independent Living to advocate for improvements to our community’s sidewalks. With a rising population of senior citizens, Grass Valley officials and residents have been coming together to determine where greater accessibility is needed. They want to introduce sidewalk improvements which will allow people using mobility devices, such as wheel chairs or strollers, to get from one place to another. According to the Sidewalk Gang, these repairs to infrastructure are needed in order to create accessibility to downtown. The projects—such as creating curb ramps and crosswalks–are geared toward accommodating a growing number of individuals who use wheelchairs, strollers, walkers, or other mobility aids to get downtown.

Several months ago, Charles Burch, an outspoken veteran who utilizes a power chair and resident of Sierra Senior Apartments, developed concerns about the sidewalks and roads around his complex. For people using walkers, wheelchairs or strollers, the process of getting to the store or bus stop down the road involved a complex negotiation of the sidewalk system, in which residents had to cross Bennett Street into oncoming traffic, maneuver their wheelchairs through a gravely lot, avoid a telephone post in the sidewalk, then cross to the other side without a crosswalk in order to reach the bus stop. For some wheelchair users at the complex, a simple foray to the nearest store was impossible—the sidewalk system just wasn’t there.

Photo Charles Burch
Photo Charles Burch

In response, Mr. Burch formed the Sidewalk Gang. They are a group of apartment residents, some utilizing wheelchairs, who are pushing for improvements to the local sidewalks through ramps, curb cuts, crosswalks, and other mobility aids. According to Trisha Tillotson, Senior Civil Engineer/Deputy Director of Public Works, “The construction of the curb ramp will allow residents of Gold Country Village easier access to downtown Grass Valley and other amenities.” She has been coordinating with residents to address barriers to accessibility.

Mr. Burch applauds the renovations to infrastructure: “The city is getting better and the sidewalks are improving with it. We’re improving our town for everyone. We’re modernizing it.”

Public Works and FREED aim to continue partnering with the community, and groups like the Sidewalk Gang, to create accessible connections in the sidewalk system. “As a result of a meeting with City staff, Gold Country Village residents and FREED, the City plans to remove several other access barriers in the area in the near future.” Inaccessible pathways, such as the Main Street connection between the roundabout and downtown Grass Valley–will be addressed by Public Works within the next year. Community organizations, like the Sidewalk Gang, indicate how the community creates positive change through advocacy and collaboration.