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A new sidewalk is cause for celebration in a historic Arlington neighborhood. Here's why

Members of Heart of Arlington Neighborhood Association (HANA), City Council members and city staff stand on a new sidewalk along Park Row Drive. HANA members have advocated for sidewalk improvements along the street for 15 years.
Kailey Broussard/KERA News
Members of Heart of Arlington Neighborhood Association (HANA), City Council members and city staff stand on a new sidewalk along Park Row Drive. HANA members have advocated for sidewalk improvements along the street for 15 years.

After over a decade of advocating for safer sidewalks, members of the Heart of Arlington Neighborhood Association have some peace of mind.

The trek along Park Row Drive used to be a lot muddier where the sidewalk ended, just east of the bridge over Johnson Creek.

From her window, Floreen Henry has watched high school students, people in wheelchairs and caregivers pushing strollers struggle to get through the dirt. Few opted to cross the arterial road without a car.

"It's so difficult crossing (Park Row Drive) to visit your neighbors. It makes it less of a residential neighborhood," Henry said.

Henry's part ofHeart of Arlington Neighborhood Association (HANA), the group that has worked with the city on sidewalk improvements for over 15 years. Members of HANA first brought the issue to city staff in 2005.

HANA spent the next several years drumming up support from property owners to persuade them to give up some of their property for the sidewalks.

"We've been working on it a long time," said Rebecca Boxall, District 5 Council member and former HANA president, at the sidewalk's unveiling Jan. 14.

The improvements span from Johnson Creek to Collins Street and include new sidewalks, ramps that are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and reconstructed sidewalks. Arlington voters approved funding for the project in a $160 million bond package in 2014.

Sidewalk construction began in summer and ended in early January.

Heart of Arlington

Heart of Arlington Neighborhood Association (HANA) covers central Arlington just south of downtown and some of thecity's oldest neighborhoods. In addition to Park Row improvements, the group has also focused on tree preservation, drainage along Johnson Creek and projects that distinguish the neighborhood.

Several speakers at the sidewalk celebration nodded to Dick Thomas, the late former president who pioneered the effort during his term.

President Alicia Gray said the city had begun developing the project by the time she took the reins.

"It was just a matter of making sure we still had a champion to keep pushing that forward to make it happen," Gray said.

Henry, who was a charter HANA member and has lived in the area since 1980, said seeing the sidewalk's completion brought tears to her eyes.

"This is for everyone. It's walkability that's for exercise, but it's really for safety and access," she said. "It should be our right to feel safe in our neighborhoods."

Got a tip? Email Kailey Broussard at kbroussard@kera.org. You can follow Kailey on Twitter @KaileyBroussard.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gift today.Thank you.

Kailey Broussard is a reporter for KERA and The Texas Newsroom through Report for America (RFA). Broussard covers the city of Arlington, with a focus on local and county government accountability.