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AARP volunteers help to promote safer streets in Southport

SOUTHPORT, NC -- AARP members were part of a group of 27 volunteers who created a colorful crosswalk on East Moore Street to demonstrate to downtown Southport and its residents how a clearly marked pedestrian crosswalk can help improve safety.

The blue, red and yellow crosswalk at the town's busiest intersection helped pedestrians walk safely across the street. The volunteers also created colorful drawings of figures walking and cycling in nearby on-street parking spaces, encouraged citizens to be active.

The temporary changes they created are a form of “tactical urbanism,” an approach to neighborhood improvement that uses short-term, low-cost, and scalable methods to spark long-term change.

This project, and the concept of "tactical urbanism" will be part of a broader examination of communities working to become age-friendly at the NC Age-Friendly and Livable Community Conference, hosted by AARP in Winston-Salem, November 19-20. AARP members with a strong interest in projects related to improving housing, transportation, walkability, health care, social engagement, should contact their local AARP representative for more conference details.

"Although the North Carolina Department of Transportation has heard from the city about the need for a crosswalk in that spot, it has yet to provide funding," explained Southport alderman Lora Sharkey.

AARP volunteer Carole LeBlanc, who helped arrange AARP's participation in the project along with the YMCA of Southeasten NC said, ” AARP in Coastal NC, is aiming to make our communities more age friendly. We initiated this work after seeing the benefits of a similar project last year in Asheville."

The tradeoff for Southport when it comes to establishing a permanent crosswalk would be the loss of four parallel parking spots. But according to AARP Associate State Director Suzanne Black, the space can be used as a 'parklette' a place where people can sit on a bench and converse, have coffee and relax." AARP set up a bench with two potted plants to create a temporary parklet in that area.

Black said that Southport residents will be able to share their thoughts about making these changes permanent through a request for feedback in their next utility bill.

To learn more about what makes communities great places for all ages, inspiring ideas, and how to get started, visit the AARP Livable Communities website.

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