By Tony Towndrow
Community Pathways@SERegional Council
I’m writing this in an effort to connect with local Vail residents who may be interested in getting involved with a local community program called SE Regional Council, which focuses on a multitude of community efforts. More specifically, however, I want to begin by discussing a working group we have created within SE Regional Council called Community Pathways. The focus of this working group is to meet with local and key officials to discuss, plan, and ultimately develop or restructure our local recreational community pathways here in Vail, AZ. A mouth full, right? What does this really mean, though?
Well, in short, the real answer is we’re seeking community—a sense of belonging to something that inspires and encourages each individual through shared values and experiences. And where better to begin than in a place where we go to meet friends and family members in safe settings, or where we go to escape the stresses of our everyday, fast-paced lives, or where we simply connect to our local ‘more-than-human’ elements that exist and persist beyond our own human existence—our recreational spaces? Our Community Pathways offer this to us.
As a child, my mother was active duty Air Force for a time, which ultimately led to a lot of traveling and exposure to different cultures and communities throughout various parts of the United States, from Colorado to Florida to Nebraska, etc. My mother’s time in the military also inspired my own pursuits into the Air Force where I served for 10 years—four years of that were spent in England—ultimately completing my service in South Dakota where I met my wife.
As our own Vail community knows, growing up and being a part of a military community truly is a diverse and unique experience that almost necessitates involvement and inclusion in a multitude of personalities and perspectives. After moving down to Tucson in 2008 and then to Vail in 2009, my family and I discovered that same sense of community that we grew up appreciating. There are so many diverse and shared values, cultures, beliefs, races, religions, ethnicities, and experiences within our small, yet large, community, and I find happiness that my children can experience the inclusion and support I so often see here.
CommunityPathways@seregionalcouncil.org is another way for us to expand and share together in this community. Still, as with everything, successful community development requires voice, policy, sustainability, and a project to consider. To that end, we need to begin Community Pathways with a project that has the opportunity to succeed. The initial project must provide safe areas for local community members to recreate. It must tackle more than just a pedestrian problem; it must address a public transportation problem. It must benefit every proximate individual to that project, from those families with and without developing children and youths to our local elder members who bring consistent knowledge and experience to local community efforts.
One project that fits all these criteria and has been a topic of past and recent discussion in some Vail community online forums is Rex Molly Road (off of Mary Ann Cleveland). This road is the main thoroughfare to Ocotillo Ridge Elementary school (ORE). It has serious safety limitations for pedestrians, from children walking and riding bikes to ORE to local community members simply recreating for individual purposes.
This is also in the proximate location of a recent accident that occurred where a child riding a bike was struck by a vehicle. Thankfully no serious injuries occurred. However, it speaks volumes to the problem. There are two main routes into ORE, Rex Molly Road, and the residential neighborhood where the accident occurred and where speeds are much more reduced than on Rex Molly Road. These problems are emphasized further with the lack of storm flow infrastructure on Rex Molly, which continues to make pedestrian travel unsafe along this road that often sees high speed vehicles.
Moreover, these are not new events. We moved to this location in 2011 and it has been this way for years. It also has been an ongoing topic of discussion with community members and county officials. I worry much about this problem: my daughter attends ORE and walks to and from school on days she attends hybrid learning and my son rides the bus to Old Vail Middle School. Unfortunately, he personally witnessed the aftermath of the child’s accident while in route to school.
The purpose of this project and of CommunityPathways@seregionalcouncil.org is to highlight these types of residential and community problems with community members first, and then bring them together with key officials who know and appreciate the work SE Regional Council brings to Vail, AZ.
If this is something you or somebody you know would like to get involved in, whether it is a recreational pathway project that needs to be highlighted, or you would like to get involved with our first project, Rex Molly Road, please send emails to: CommunityPathways@seregionalcouncil.org. While this is a new community effort, I am confident in the process and our ability to present and develop this community. We will move forward in a way that both preserves our natural beauty and provides safe spaces for all community members to enjoy that natural beauty. Thank you so much Vail, and I look forward to hearing your voice.