This weekend, Sunnyside just got a new splash of color at the intersection of Navajo Street and 41st Avenue.
The likeness of the Trevista school’s mascot, Frankie the Falcon, now adorns the street in front of the school. His radiating blue feathers are a beacon to slow drivers down. His presence is also a reward for neighbors’ hard work in charting the neighborhood’s walkability.
Last year, Walk Denver, the city’s advocates for pedestrians, challenged neighborhoods to collect data on sidewalks and intersections for WalkScope, an interactive guide to each of Denver’s blocks. Sunnyside, Barnum and Valverde came out as the winners.
Each neighborhood got $1,000 to spend on walkability. Valverde also is installing a mural, while Barnum has painted wayfinding arrows.
Leading Sunnyside’s effort was Kirsten Schatz, who moved to the neighborhood with her burgeoning family from the Cheesman Park area. She said she took her old neighborhood’s nice, wide sidewalks for granted. It was something of a shock to arrive in Sunnyside, where sidewalks are narrow and sometimes missing altogether.
It wasn’t long before Schatz became a walkability activist. When Walk Denver’s data challenge was announced, she and her neighbors stayed out at all hours filling in the blanks.
Generally speaking, WalkScope’s map shows that the city’s walkability score improves as you get closer to the center of town. Think of 16th Street Mall as the champion of all walkability with quality radiating outward. Sunnyside, like much of the west side, has a lot of red lines marring its record.
“I don’t hide the fact that I’m desperately trying to see us get sidewalks,” said city Councilman Rafael Espinoza, who presides over Sunnyside and showed up with the mayor to paint the street.
To Schatz and Espinoza, sidewalks mean more than a simple convenience: They enable civic participation.
For Espinoza, walkable accessibility for elderly people will help them “age in place,” he said, which is one of his goals for older neighborhoods like this.
Schatz said a more connected neighborhood means kids will be safer and local businesses will more likely be patronized.
“It’s a part of our DNA,” said Gosia Kung, Walk Denver’s founder and executive director. “We’re used to processing word and seeing world at 3 miles per hour.”
Now, with a giant blue falcon gracing Sunnyside’s streets, there’s one more thing to admire as you walk the city slowly.