Advocacy Success Story: Sidewalk to Connect Schools and Neighborhoods

(York County, SC) Community members speaking up, and working together, can influence decisionmakers to recognize problems and find solutions. One mother’s petition highlighted what many Fort Mill parents were worried about – they moved into new neighborhoods within walking distance of five schools, but their children didn’t have a continuous sidewalk to walk, bike or roll there safely.

Amy Boulris had just about given up, after cold calling and emailing local government agencies and hearing repeatedly that there was no way to get this done. However, Bike/Ped Coalition (BPC) of York County leaders saw her November 2020 petition and contacted her to offer support. We helped her navigate the myriad of agencies and jurisdictions that needed to be involved. We connected her to a point person for the neighboring Dominion Bridge neighborhood to spread the word about the petition. The sidewalk then became a regular discussion topic in the BPC monthly meetings.

The BPC helped her get the word out, and her petition went from 100 signatures to over 800. We and our partner, Eat Smart Move More York County, published Safe Ped/Rolling Access Needed to Two FMSD Schools to clarify the issues for anyone wanting to learn more. We connected her to Rachel Richardson of CN2 News, who ran Fort Mill Parents Start Petition for Pedestrian Pathways between Homes and School. We helped equip Ms. Boulris to make public comments at the RFATS Policy Committee meeting, where she addressed transportation officials, mayors, and county leaders – who could also access funding.

Within a few months, Fort Mill and York County agreed to work together, in consultation with the Fort Mill School District, to pursue funding for the project. The BPC wrote a letter of support for the sidewalk. In the March 2021 BPC meeting, the two jurisdictions shared that the sidewalk would only go in one direction and would not connect the Dominion Bridge neighborhood adjacent to the school in the other – the terrain was too challenging and funding wouldn’t cover the construction cost. Disappointed, we encouraged them to pursue other solutions. Upon further discussion, the jurisdictions decided to pursue another pot of funding, and we gladly rewrote our letter of support. In the May 2021 RFATS Policy Committee meeting, preliminary approval was given to direct federal funding to the Whites Road continuous sidewalk!

“Next year, when kids are walking to school on Whites Road, we can thank the BPC and Liz Duda for helping the project get the attention needed to gain funding. The Whites Road residents are excited about this project and thankful that our kids will have the privilege of walking to school!”

Amy Boulris, Fort Mill parent

The BPC commends community members for speaking up to share the need for a continuous sidewalk for their children to be able to walk and cycle safely to nearby schools. We appreciate the diligence of planners from Fort Mill and York County who worked together, in consultation with the Fort Mill School District, to find a solution. Without the efforts of Penelope Karagounis, Fort Mill Planning Director, and Christopher Stephens, Transportation Planner II, this project would not have moved forward. And thanks to the RFATS policymakers for allocating the funding. #BikeWalkYorkCounty

Depicts sidewalk along Whites Road
Plan for Sidewalk along Whites Road, Fort Mill, York County

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