Downtown Waterville is changing and the focus has to be on a spirit of integration with health, wellness and fitness, considered alongside and intertwined with the arts, business and entertainment. The dream of less reliance on cars, a safe walking environment and bicycle-friendly lanes can be a reality if our business and community leaders want to make it so.

Our recreational and health-care communities need to be intimately involved in creating a downtown that is more than just a street to drive through. Our downtown can be an agora if we have a plan that keeps cars out of the center of town and one that connects the downtown via safe, walkable sidewalks and dedicated bicycle lanes to stores on Kennedy Memorial Drive, Elm Plaza and College Avenue.

This concept will allow the city to serve as a focal point and improve the health and well-being of our population. Communities whose leaders improve walkways, reduce barriers to commute on foot or by pedal, and create open spaces to explore have healthier populations with fewer instances of chronic disease and lower rates of obesity. It becomes easier to get your 10,000 steps a day.

Imagine families walking along the Kennebec Messalonskee Trail from Benton for an afternoon of exercise, who then relax in Waterville for a refreshing meal. Imagine downtown residents or Colby College students without vehicles, having a safe means of walking to Hannaford to buy groceries. Imagine a ready-made solution to parking congestion with dedicated protected bicycle stations.

The people of this city have an expectation and shared vision of wellness and a flourishing commerce. To embrace this new concept of a downtown whose focus is on families, walkers and bicyclists is a challenge that I believe this community and its leaders are capable of conquering.

John Salvato, M.D.


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