Story & Photos by Paula Curry
On Wednesday, October 12th, Discovery High School’s Student Senate volunteered with the city of Newton to help put up the Streetscape demonstration, a temporary version of a project to revamp the town square that is currently in the works.
The Newton Streetscape master plan is a revitalization project to better the Newton community. It began years ago when the city noticed that Newton was not doing as well economically as city officials would’ve hoped and they began to brainstorm projects that would increase tourism and appeal.
The primary goal of the Streetscape plan is to make downtown Newton more appealing, which will hopefully excite the community to spend more time in the square and also to hopefully bring in new businesses. This plan includes quite a few changes, including adding a bike lane, widening sidewalks, changing the road to a two lane road and planting trees along the side of the streets.
In the past few years the city of Newton has had a close relationship with Discovery High School. Students have worked on various projects to help improve the city, like the Teen Leadership and For Civic Good programs. “The city planning director emailed me and asked if our school would be willing to continue the relationship; we’d done such a good job already.’ Mr. Wilson, a sponsor for Discovery’s Student Senate commented when asked about how Discovery’s Senate became involved with this latest project.
There were five different crews that students could be a part of, including a comment board crew, curb crew, parking crew, bike layout crew, and bike rack crew.
The comment board crew had the task of designing and installing two comment boards where citizens could leave their feelings and suggestions for the Streetscape project. Crew members also helped advertise and inform the community of future plans for the project by putting up posters all around the town square.
The curb crew measured the width of the new curb and placed a temporary curb line, represented by a hay wattle, on the road where the future curb will be. Since they were extending the curb, they essentially widened the sidewalk area of downtown Newton, a move intended to provide more room for foot traffic and businesses. One restaurant, Carolina Vines, even started to offer an outdoor seating option as a result of the new widened sidewalk. Rachel Dillingham, a sophomore at Discovery, summed up her experience working as a member of the curb crew, saying,“I had a lot of fun doing it and it was really interesting.”
The parking crew had the task of creating the new parallel parking lanes and of marking the lines for the two new driving lanes. As previously mentioned, this plan includes widening the sidewalk, which means that the road size itself has to be reduced. Though the lanes were reduced in size, the lanes in Newton’s square have always been exceptionally large, so they’re just now being reduced to the minimum lane width.
The bike layout crew’s job was to mark where the bike lane would be and to create bike symbols on the road with tape. They measured from the new curb that the curb crew had established and then made the lane. This is an improvement upon Newton’s currently nonexistent bike lane.
The last crew was the bike rack crew. The bike rack crew decorated and installed two new bike racks for that stretch of the city. The bike racks were painted “funkily”, so that they would grab the attention of passersby.
It was decided that, since the town of Newton wouldn’t really need the bike racks after this presentation, Discovery could keep the bike racks that the student volunteers had decorated and install them for use on campus.
The overall feeling from the volunteers towards the Streetscape project was extremely positive. Brooks Kahn, a Discovery freshman and senator, had this to say when asked about his feelings towards the demonstration, “It seems good, I don’t live in Newton so I haven’t driven through town much, but from what I’ve seen it looks like a really good thing for the city.”
All in all, the Streetscape project is shaping up to be a great contribution to the city of Newton and another successful partnership between the city and Discovery High School.