RANDOLPH, NJ - When RMS students Emma Halper and Brendan Laqui began their 8th grade capstone projects, they looked at Randolph for inspiration. Tasked with different topics (Laqui with Good Health and Wellbeing, Halper on Sustainable Cities and Communities) they both found sidewalks would accomplish these goals.
The RMS Capstone Expo for all 400 students takes place on June 12-13, but Laqui and Halper presented their project directly to the council with the goal of splitting trail funding in half and using the remaining funds for a mile of new sidewalks throughout the township.
“We hope to have at least one mile of new sidewalks put in throughout the town,” Halper said. “We also hope to spread the word to other towns and communities.”
The team released a survey to RMS parents and students, receiving 500 responses with 78.6% stating they would like more sidewalks. When asked if they would prefer more trails or more sidewalks, only 27.6% responded more trails.
Laqui mentioned safety as the primary concern for residents, with “360 pedestrians killed annually in motor vehicle accidents on roadways in the U.S.” and 316 of those lives could be saved with sidewalks.
“Obviously, 360 people are not dying in Randolph, but even one would be too many,” Halper said.
The team also referenced statistics proving cities with more sidewalks have a lower obesity rate across the country. According to the CDC, only 15.4% of the New York City population is considered obese, which shows a “pretty clear correlation between the high walking rates and the low obesity rates,” Halper said.
While Randolph cannot reach the same walkability of New York City, increasing the number of sidewalks around the community could benefit public health overall, she added.
Laqui suggested sidewalks linking the high school to Freedom Park, so athletes would have easy access for practices and games. They also proposed connecting Mount Freedom Golf to the Randolph Library, as well as local neighborhoods to the new park on Calais Road.
Not only would sidewalks keep residents safe, but they have the potential to increase the economic development of the community, Laqui mentioned.
Township Manager Stephen Mountain commented that sidewalks would be a large part of the town center development in the Mount Freedom area to bring a “village feel” to that section of the town.
“Looking at places where we have gaps in our sidewalk network is going to be a priority [for a Circulation Plan update],” Mountain said, “as well as making sure that any areas where our trails can’t go, that possibly sidewalks will make the difference.”
The RMS 8th grade “Take Action” projects focus on the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Each homeroom teacher is an expert in one of the goals, and all of their students develop projects on that theme. Each student presented their “Take Action” projects at the Capstone Expo this week.
“We just felt that [sidewalks] would really strengthen Randolph and a really good addition to the community, and it was something I noticed was missing in town,” Halper concluded. “We thought it a really feasible project but also a really important one that could have a really nice effect on Randolph.”