July 1, 2013

USAO student aims for construction

The Express-Star

CHICKASHA — When Conner Cheek, 19-year-old USAO sophomore and Chickasha native, was told to identify a community problem and pose a solution to it in his composition class last semester, he considered it more than just the routine assignment. The young man decided to begin route, through his research essay, in tackling a legitimate problem that had long been on his mind.

“Kicking it to the Curb: Chickasha’s Terrible Sidewalk Situation,” was the title of Cheek’s five-page research project that examines reasons why a sidewalk should be constructed connecting the USAO campus, on Grand Avenue, to Fourth Street.

Within the piece, he cites City Manager Stewart Fairburn, the Chickasha Department of Community Development and several academic and government references.

“It seems to be a natural thing for a college town to build transportation systems to suit the school it holds,” Cheek wrote. “There are a number of students without vehicles and therefore limited means of transportation. A change in necessary.”

Cheek proposes a sidewalk from USAO to Fourth Street would benefit USAO students and everyday Chickasha residents greatly. Key highlights in his paper include: Connecting campus and nearby neighborhood inhabitants to retail, grocery and restaurant locations, encouraging physical activity among these inhabitants and adding to the physical appeal of Chickasha.

“Alternatives to driving are either impractical or unsafe; Chickasha has no existing bike paths and poor sidewalks where they do exist,” Cheek wrote, after commenting on the pricey commodity of gasoline for low-income college students.

According to Cheek, several of his colleagues would continuously ask for rides to Walmart, which is located at the intersection of Fourth Street and Grand avenue, and this initially sparked the idea to write about the issue. It took almost a month to complete his paper, but he is pleased with the final product.

“I talked to so many people while writing the paper, and I didn’t meet one person who didn’t agree with the idea,” Cheek said. “I’d really like to see the sidewalk constructed, it’d be beneficial to everyone.”

Construction is expensive however, but Cheek understands this.

“Indeed, it is estimated that the project would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars after engineering, construction, landscaping and other building costs,” he wrote. “The city of Chickasha has money set aside for building projects such as this each year in the Capital Projects Fund. In this fund, there is plenty of money to fund the sidewalk project.”

Cheek takes the time to address that the sidewalk may not be the first of priorities this fund should be dedicated to, but stands by the essentiality of it being built — even suggesting alternative moneys be pulled for the plan.

“Ultimately I see no reason this sidewalk plan could not be carried out … what hinders this sidewalk’s creation is Chickasha’s willingness to build it,” Cheek wrote.

With the suggestion of teachers and friends, Cheek has submitted his paper to community outlets in an effort to spread word of his idea. His next step, he said, is the possible address of city council leaders.