public history, regional planning, case studies, historic sites
The City of Shamokin is interested in restoring nine public steps placed strategically throughout the city that connect neighborhoods that are typically at a higher elevation relative to one another. The steps were originally installed to connect neighborhoods and offer walkable transportation to and from work, typically coal mining and factory jobs, as well as places of recreation such as parks and ballfields, and also connected neighborhood schools. In their peak use, they were the most popular mode of transportation. Currently, most of the steps are in disrepair, unusable and are closed off with gates.
Bucknell University’s Geography 260: Exploring Sustainable Communities course was invited by the Anthracite Region for Progress, Northumberland County Planning Office, and the City of Shamokin to conduct a study and analysis of the public steps in Shamokin. Under the direction of Dr. Shaunna Barnhart, Director of the Place Studies Program in Bucknell’s Center for Sustainability and the Environment, the team was tasked with conducting a historical analysis and reference of the public steps, noting the current status and condition of the steps, and completing a spatial analysis to determine the importance and value of opening the steps in an effort to reconnect neighborhoods and the downtown business district. Additionally, surveys of local residents and business owners were conducted to gauge public perception on and potential future use of the steps as a mode of walkable transportation and recreation. An analysis was also conducted to identify any potential challenges in repairing, reopening and maintaining the public steps.
Based on the research, it is clear that the steps have historical significance and importance to the Shamokin community. Many historical references were found demonstrating that the steps were an important part of everyday life to the Shamokin community and were integral to creating and connecting various parts of the city. Results based on the spatial analysis conducted suggests that the public steps provide an important physical connection to neighborhoods by connecting sidewalks of neighborhoods with drastically different elevations. The spatial analysis suggests that repairing and restoring the public steps is a key element in a campaign to make Shamokin a more walkable and pedestrian-friendly city. The results from prior studies discussed herein also suggest that repairing the public steps should be a priority in reducing blight and aging infrastructure. This is a key element in stabilizing real estate values in Shamokin. -- Shaunna Barnhart, PhD, editor
Coal Region Field Station
City of Shamokin, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania
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