MSU students present Scottville walkability study

May 5, 2023

MSU students present Scottville walkability study

SCOTTVILLE — Planning students from Michigan State University presented the results of their City of Scottville walkability study Thursday afternoon during a public presentation at Scottville Area Senior Center. 

The five presenters consisted of graduate and undergraduate students enrolled in MSU’s Urban and Regional Planning Practicum course. The course is MSU’s capstone course required of all students graduating in urban planning. The practicum program is supported by MSU Extension and the Regional Economic Initiative. They began their study in January. 

After collecting data from community and school surveys, neighborhood assessments, and multiple in-person visits the students put together a 72-page report providing data, analysis and possible solutions to Scottville’s walkability challenges. 

One of the priorities of their study was to create a sidewalk assessment and review safe walking routes to Mason County Central Schools, said City Manager Jimmy Newkirk. 

“We have identified many areas were we will be doing some work this upcoming summer but in 2024 I hope to really focus in on defining specific routes to schools especially from the south side of town,” Newkirk said. “I have been working with Amber Township officials for over a year to try and get a stoplight at the bypass. While this is not a pedestrian zone, the Michigan Department of Transportation, which regulates the highways, has previously said that slowing traffic in this area will slow traffic in town. However, we have not had very good results getting information from MDOT.”

Audience members were surprised to find out that, according to the students’ survey, 4 percent of Scottville’s population walks rather than drives. The national average is about 1.5 percent, the students stated. 

The students also presented a plan to revitalize downtown Scottville. Newkirk said much of that plan is already underway in the recent changes in ownership of multiple buildings. The students placed a lot of emphasis on developing the food truck area. 

“Food truck areas have been proven to be beneficial to economic growth in towns of all sizes across the country,” Newkirk said. “Our established zone is a perfect location along State Street (US 10). The food truck has been an amazing addition to town and increasing opportunities at that location is a priority.”

The students also suggested cosmetic changes to areas in downtown along with the consideration of changing some zoning ordinances. 

“There has been a lot of interest in Scottville and that continues to grow,” Newkirk said. “I get calls and emails for development and business opportunities almost every day. Most calls are questions on zoning, what opportunities are available, brownfield availability, etc. There are over 1,400 people living in Scottville, the most in history, and the real estate market continues to be very busy.” 

Scottville Mayor Marcy Spencer said the students’ report is something that would normally cost thousands of dollars, if a professional had been hired. 

“The data presented in this report can be used as we look at seeking funding for improving our walking zones and revitalizing our downtown,” Spencer said. “We are very thankful to have been able to partner with Michigan State on this project.” 

Read the complete study here.

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