The ancient Latin expression “solvitur ambulando” means “it is solved by walking.” Eric Mowris has found it to be true, and has seen that many of life’s challenges are indeed solved by walking, especially since moving back to the walkable city of Sandy Springs.
When Eric and his wife Cheryl previously lived in Sandy Springs, from 1983 to 1999, their home was located outside I-285 and west of Roswell Road, and all four of their children attended Riverwood High School. “We were a typical two-plus car household and didn’t consider the community to be particularly walkable, although I found some safe and pleasant bicycle routes that I enjoyed,” Mowris explained.
They sold that home in 1999 and moved to condo living in Buckhead. It was near enough to Mowris’ marketing communications office that he walked to work until his retirement in 2012. “Cheryl and I discovered we enjoyed walking a nearby nature path and back streets to shopping destinations on Roswell Road,” he said. “She missed gardening and I missed having a shop, so we decided to find a house in what we started referring to as a ‘walkable community’.”
The couple explored Rome, GA and Greenville, SC as possible destinations; both are small cities with thriving historic downtowns, developed trail systems and demonstrated public commitments to pedestrian and cycling infrastructure. In each city, they found neighborhoods close to places of interest, fill-in shopping and pedestrian-friendly amenities.
“But we realized there would be a high cost in moving away from friendships and community organizations we’d been involved with for so many years,” said Mowris. “So we were inspired to apply the same evaluation criteria we’d used to assess Rome and Greenville to the two Atlanta neighborhoods we knew best: Sandy Springs and Buckhead’s Chastain Park area.”
In Sandy Springs, they discovered that a genuine commitment to walkability was driving new infrastructure improvements, many already underway and even more included in an ambitious pedestrian-friendly master plan. They also found affordable houses in Hammond Hills that were walking distance from parks, library, shopping, services, dining and entertainment, and one house in particular that featured an ideal site for Cheryl’s garden and a partial basement suitable for Eric to work on various household projects.
There are plenty of places for Eric and Cheryl to walk in their neighborhood. Sometimes they put together a multi-stop walking route for running errands that might include destinations like the post office, grocery store, Trader Joe’s, bank, hardware store and cleaners. They’re frequent users of the library, which is just two blocks away, and when their granddaughters visit, they often stroll with them to the delightful new playground at Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church.
“We walked to Hammond Park Gym to vote in this year’s election, and we’ve enjoyed walking to the free concerts at Heritage Sandy Springs Park and performances at Act3 Productions,” Mowris said. “We’re certainly looking forward to the amenities in store for us as City Springs is completed, and we’re hopeful we’ll be able to take advantage of the nearby infrastructure improvements forthcoming from recent passage of the T-SPLOST referendum.”
It’s not all easy trails, however. The biggest challenge to walking more is infrastructure gaps, Mowris noted, adding that he and Cheryl would be frequent users of sidewalks on Hammond Road east of Roswell Road. “They’re coming, with T-SPLOST, but we’d be using them now if they were there,” he said. “It’s interesting that infrastructure construction actually disrupts walkability.”
The couple just joined the new Snap Fitness Gym on Sandy Springs Circle, but they’ll have to drive there for workouts until City Springs construction, including sidewalks, is completed. Hilderbrand Drive, their preferred walking route to Heritage Springs Park, is currently interrupted by construction of a new intersection between the park and City Springs.
But back to the bright spots: “Our biggest benefit is being able to walk two and a half blocks to visit my 93-year-old mother, who moved from Smyrna into Mount Vernon Towers a bit over a year ago,” Mowris said. “And I think our second biggest benefit is meeting and greeting our neighbors, many of whom are also walking with their families for pleasure or purpose.”
He stressed that there plenty of other positives to opting for walking, too. He and Cheryl are happier and less stressed, they enjoy each other’s company and they often complete their errands more quickly than if they had driven.
“If more people walked more often, more issues would be solved, just as the ancient Latins have told us,” Mowris concluded. “We’d be a healthier nation. Children would grow up expecting to walk places—and expecting places to walk to. Pedestrian infrastructure development would be accelerated and expanded. Motorists would be more aware of pedestrians and might even join the parade!”
Photo by Lennie Gray Mowris, lenspeace.com