Neighbors at odds over a sidewalk in the Oak Forest community

HOUSTON – Neighbors in an Oak Forest community are at odds over a sidewalk. Some people feel like a new sidewalk would make it easier for people to get around. Others said the process was rushed and the City of Houston did not gather input from residents about the project.

The sidewalk is located on the southside of Wakefield Drive in Oak Forest. Crews started construction on September 13.

Rebecca Bell lives on Wakefield Drive and last year she applied for the sidewalk through Houston’s Public Works Sidewalk Program.

“When it originally got started it was a group of moms that just sort of felt we saw increased traffic, we saw reckless driving, we saw how distracted people are driving,” Bell said.

Melinda Faust also lives in the neighborhood and said residents never got an opportunity to voice their concerns about the project.

“It’s a little frustrating, part of it is that we are not concerned about the safety of our kids because we walk our kids to school. The frustrating part of the issue is how it was handled,” Melinda Faust said.

Council Member Abbie Kamin who represents District C sent KPRC 2 a statement about the project,

“The Safe Sidewalk program allows residents near schools to apply for city funded sidewalks on city rights of way to ensure children and their families can walk safely in their neighborhoods. A neighborhood resident a few blocks from the elementary school applied and met all the requirements, so there is no discretion on moving forward.

This is a matter of safety for children and families. Although council offices don’t have purview over the program, when my office heard from several residents, I asked the Public Works Department to work with residents to determine a single side of the street that would be most appropriate to help alleviate some of the other neighbors’ concerns. I really appreciate the Department’s efforts.”

In this case, Frank Black Middle School and Oak Forest Elementary are four blocks away from the community.

Bell says the sidewalk is needed.

“The pro about this sidewalk is that kids will safely get around, people will safely get around with their pets or on a bike,” Rebecca Bell said.

After the project was approved residents received hangers on their doors about construction starting in September. Faust started a petition but says there is nothing city leaders can do because construction has already started.

“We wish the city would have one, giving us earlier notice and two, poll the neighbors,” she said.

Workers said construction should be complete in a few weeks.