Henniker forum to focus on Main Street crosswalks

Owner Jennifer Lopez of Superscoops on Western Avenue in Henniker in front of her ice cream shop on Friday, April 19, 2024.

Owner Jennifer Lopez of Superscoops on Western Avenue in Henniker in front of her ice cream shop on Friday, April 19, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

By DAVID BROOKS

Monitor staff

Published: 04-21-2024 11:48 AM

The owner of Superscoops on Henniker’s Main Street says she’s ready to make the ultimate business sacrifice to help the people who flock to her walk-up window in nice weather.

“I’m willing to give up two parking spots in front of my store so there’s a safe crosswalk to the park,” said Jennifer Lopez.

Lopez, who sometimes calls herself J-Lo after the singer with the same name, says she brought up the idea of a crosswalk shortly after she bought the business in August of 2020. Two crosswalks exist along this stretch of Main Street, one at the intersection of Crescent Street and another a hundred yards or so west of Superscoops, but a study last June found far more people crossed the street around the ice cream store than at either crosswalk.

“Between May and October there’s a lot of hustle and bustle on Main Street. The shortest way to the (park) is straight across,” Lopez said. “I work the window so I see everything happening. I see kids bolting across, between cars … and parents trying to make their way across the street as safely as possible.”

Her request didn’t get approved but it has led the town to take a broader look at the stretch of Main Street from the Community School at the west to Crescent Street at the east, including the busy intersection where Bridge/Maple street crosses Main.

Town Administrator Diane Kendall said it has been many years since the town took a broad look at its downtown.

“It has been probably 15 or 20 years since the last revitalization – sidewalks, parking,” she said.

A team from the Central New Hampshire Regional Planning Commission counted traffic and pedestrians and gathered other data but as average vehicle speeds and parking use in the spring of 2023, when both the elementary school and New England College were in session, and in the summer of 2023 during various downtown events such as concerts and farmers markets.

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The findings will be the topic of a public forum on Tuesday, April 23, at 6 p.m. in the Community School, hosted by the Select Board and the Economic Development Committee, where suggestions and feedback will be collected.

“They will present some options for improving pedestrian safety and (town officials) will listen to the concerns of the stakeholders,” said Kendall. “There won’t any decisions made at this meeting.”

Among the team’s findings are the fact that the downtown area has more than enough parking spaces at nine different locations. These are never filled with the possible exception of a few hours during major events, the report said.

However, most of these parking lots are out of sight of Main Street and don’t get used enough, the group wrote in their report: “Evidence indicates few people walked to Main Street events from distant parking areas (based on pedestrian counts and parking occupancy).”

The analysis indicated that “about 5% of traffic” drove at speeds of 31 mph or faster, with speeds higher in the early morning. “Speeds of 25 mph or less are appropriate for a street, given the village context and presence of pedestrians and other people-centric activities,” the report said.

The report highlighted the fact that even slightly higher speeds by cars is much more dangerous for pedestrians.