By Gerhard Schneibel

Sidewalks in Sandy Springs haven’t been an infrastructure priority, but the idea of creating a more walkable community is gaining momentum as some citizens and City Council members decide that being able to take a walk makes a difference in quality of life.

Nate and Amy Chan, who live in Councilman Doug MacGinnitie’s Dist. 1, recently started an online petition to get gaps filled in the sidewalks in their part of the city.

Nate and his family moved into their home near the corner of Mount Vernon Road and Spalding Drive about three years ago.

“We love the area, love the neighborhood and quickly became frustrated because there’s this patchwork of sidewalks that just really makes no sense,” he said. “None of it’s interconnected, and what ends up happening is you live this life where you can’t walk anywhere. You can’t get anywhere by foot. It’s not a good lifestyle when you can’t get out from your own house and walk, get a cup of coffee or something like that.

“I’m a runner. … I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated finding myself getting into my car to go running. It’s a quality-of-life thing.”

The petition asks for sidewalks to be added at five specific places: a 0.3-mile stretch of Mount Vernon Road between Dunwoody Club Drive and Spalding Drive, a 0.2-mile stretch of Jett Ferry Road between Spalding Drive and Orchard Park Shopping Center, a 0.1-mile stretch of Spalding Drive between Stables Drive and Wickley Way, a 0.3-mile stretch of Spalding Drive between the Spalding Lake Recreation Area and Spalding Lane, and a 0.4-mile stretch of Spalding Drive between the Spalding Heights subdivision and Jett Ferry Road.

Those pieces would tie together a network of sidewalks through much of Dist. 1, Chan said. “It just seems so logical to me. There are just a few places where you can fill in these gaps and all of a sudden this whole area of Sandy Springs is connected. … It’d be really great.”

MacGinnitie said he supports the plan. “I’m hopeful that the council will continue to allocate money to sidewalks.”

While adding sidewalks throughout the city would cost tens of millions of dollars, Chan’s plan would probably cost a couple hundred thousand, MacGinnitie said. “I think it’s a priority for a bunch of folks in our district, and I think his efforts are well received.”

Katherine Feeman, who represents Dist. 1 in the Sandy Springs Council of Neighborhoods, said the area is wooded and a great place to run, walk and hike. Filling gaps in the sidewalks would contribute to “safety, connectivity and getting people out and about,” she said. “It might encourage people to actually get off the couch.”

Linda Bain, the executive director of the Sandy Springs Conservancy, said the project being petitioned for is “a great way to start implementing some of our plans to connect in Sandy Springs.”

Sidewalks and parks go hand in hand, she said. “We see the benefits of sidewalks all the time. … I see people out walking their dogs, strolling their children. … All of these things I think add to the quality of our lives. It means that we’ll have some opportunity to take traffic off the roads. It means we’ll be able to offer people the opportunity to walk to places that are close at hand.”

About 210 people have signed the petition so far. It will be brought before the City Council before budgeting begins for the next fiscal year.