By Max Royle ~ St. Augustine Beach City Manager
“These boots are made for walking.” What better way to date oneself than to quote the title of a 1966 pop hit sung by Nancy Sinatra, except that unlike Nancy, my essay here isn’t about boots and metaphorically using them to walk on a cheating romantic partner but about walking as simply…walking.
What’s not to like about walking? Not much, I propose, and I hope you’ll agree. As a form of exercise, it requires no gym membership, no equipment and can be done, barring storms, at about anytime. All you need is a comfortable pair of shoes and a willingness to get out of the house and start striding.
And, as perhaps the most basic form of mobility, walking is so suitable for those short trips between your home and a local business, the post office, library, beach, or a neighbor in another subdivision, even if the distance is up to a mile or perhaps more. You can leave your car in your driveway or garage and save the money you would have been spent on gasoline. Also, you’ll prolong the useful life of your vehicle. If you’re climate-change minded and health conscious, think of how walking can reduce your carbon footprint and how studies have proven that walking is definitely heart healthy!
I wax enthusiastically about this exercise for two reasons. First, I love to walk and second, because our fair city is so wonderfully walkable, though that always wasn’t the case. Back in the bad, old days, like a mere 30 years ago, our City had but one sidewalk. It was on the east side of A1A Beach Boulevard from Pope Road to what is now the Guy Harvey Resort (opposite the entrance to the Anastasia Dunes/Makarios subdivision). From there to the shopping center, you walked on the rough, rutted, unpaved shoulder of the road. The same was true for the state highway and other major streets throughout the City. Walking was neither pleasurable nor safe.
Then, thanks to a foresightful City Mayor, Emmett Pacetti, an extensive sidewalk building program was started in the early 1990s. With funding from the City and County, sidewalks were put along Pope Road, A Street and Ocean Trace Road. Later the County constructed the sidewalk along 16th and 11th Streets while the City paid for the sidewalk on Old Beach Road, Mickler Boulevard, 5th Avenue, part of 11th Street and the unbuilt sections of 2nd Avenue between 11th and 1st Streets. When it widened A1A Beach Boulevard in 1995-96, the County constructed a sidewalk along each side, as did the state when State Road A1A was widened in 1998. Mark Bailey of The Bailey Group generously donated money for the sidewalk on 16th Street between the beach and the Boulevard; the County constructed a sidewalk on the south side of Pope Road between the Boulevard and the beach; and the City with three adjacent property owners paid for the sidewalk along 8th Street when the street between the Boulevard and 2nd Avenue was built in 2016. Now, new subdivisions with public streets, such as Ocean Ridge, are required to have sidewalks.
Have we achieved the modern standard of being a walkable city? I think so, except…with all the sidewalks in place, it would warm my feet if more residents used them. So, I hope to see you out there, hoofing away. And if you need motivation to walk, get a dog. It’s gratifying to see so many dogs taking their owners for a walk. Now if cats would do the same for their owners….