Franklin resident Dan Thomas is known around the region as a meteorologist with WSMV News 4, Nashville’s NBC News affiliate, but in his own community of Franklin, he’s also known as one of the people responsible for helping to bring sidewalks to a large number of Franklin residents.
Franklin’s Fieldstone Farms neighborhood is home to around 7 percent of the city’s population, and while sidewalks have been present on many residential streets, the community’s main thoroughfare which connects homes with a school and walking trail has, until recently, been without sidewalks.
“I was often seeing people — pedestrians, kids on skateboards, bikers — going along down the main thoroughfare where people [in motor vehicles] would go 40, 45 mph,” Thomas says.
This concern over safety for his family and those of his neighbors sparked Thomas to work with his Home Owners Association to see what they could do to improve their neighborhood.
The group’s efforts then led to an agreement that was formed with the city of Franklin to take on the project, splitting the roughly $600,000 cost between the two groups for the approximately 2 miles of sidewalk.
“One of the big concerns is not just that you have straight-aways that people speed on, but you’ve got Amazon drivers like you’ve never had before,” Thomas says.
Thomas said he was just one of many people in the HOA and the city who worked together in the name of safety, and that willingness to work together, Thomas says, is one of the great things about the Franklin community.
“It underscores why we came to Franklin,” Thomas says. “It’s welcoming; it’s supportive —We’re all on the same page on wanting to make our community better. The residents are part of the team with the leadership that runs the city, so it’s just fantastic — it couldn’t have worked out any better.”
Thomas says that since the project was completed, he’s been approached by numerous neighbors, including Dena Divito, who has lived in Fieldstone Farms since 1999.
Divito said that the sidewalks have “empowered” her 16-year-old special needs son who has made his trips between his home and the local park safer.
“His bike and that park are a big part of his life, and now with the sidewalk he’s just made a racetrack and he’s able to go to the park safely and kind of take the long route, and he really feels like he’s the king of Fieldstone now,” Divito says.
The project took about 18 months to complete, and Thomas credits his past experience working with HOAs coupled with his experience serving eight years in the U.S. Air Force with giving him the attitude and responsibility to help his community in every way he can.
“In the military I learned that if you see something that can be improved, don’t talk about it, just get it done,” Thomas says.
“Now you can see people just enjoying the sidewalks,” Thomas adds. “Children are safer, drivers are safer because they’re not driving down the street and looking into the sun and wondering if someone is on the street beside them as they go 40 mph down the street.”
“I’ve been here a long time,” Divito says. “And I’ve seen more people out on those sidewalks over the past four months than I have in the last 20 years, so people are really enjoying them and they’re really adding to the activity level of the residents here in Fieldstone.”