The following is part of our Five Minute Lifestyle series. Living at Grow Community makes getting out your car easy with all of your local amenities and transportation needs met within a quick 5 minute walk or bike ride away. Our Five Minute Lifestyle posts are dedicated to spotlighting nearby local businesses, transportation options for residents, community resources and the spectacular local attractions of Bainbridge Island and our surrounding community.
By our Health and Happiness Champion, Leslie Schneider
As a 12-year-old, I remember well the territory I was comfortable exploring on my bike with friends and siblings. We could ride on a dirt path from the residential road through an empty lot to the usually vacant parking lot behind Safeway. The empty lot had little hills that helped us hone our bike handling skills. And the Safeway store offered us refunds for empty bottles and plenty of ways to spend the new cash.
These days, as parents we put a lot of money and time into taking care of our kids. Different families make different choices, but the community we live in makes many choices for us too. During the week we drive our kids from one activity to another, and then on weekends we drive to big box stores to provision ourselves for the coming week. These rituals can be fun… come on, admit it, Costco has us nailed, offering free samples of prepared food sold in volume, cheap pizza or a cone at the checkout. But it is not a kid’s world. We don’t feel safe letting our children run around by themselves as we shop.
Going somewhere and buying something… that is what grown-ups do. So isn’t it the Holy Grail of freedom for a kid to be able to get somewhere by themselves and purchase something of high kid-value? How many parents with school-aged children in your neighborhood would think it safe to send their kids to the grocery store alone? Architect Ross Chapin is an advocate of small scale communities. In his book “Pocket Neighborhoods”, Chapin describes what he calls the “Popsicle Index” – the percentage of people who think it is safe to let their kid walk to a store and buy a Popsicle without adult supervision.
On Bainbridge Island, we are lucky to have Mora’s Ice Cream, surely a part of many families’ ritual outings long before a kid has much independence. So. If you lived within walking distance from Mora’s in downtown Winslow, would you let your daughter walk there by herself to buy a treat?
To reach that Holy Grail safely, a child needs to start much earlier in life with smaller circles of independence, or safety zones that expand with the age and confidence of the child. A safe base creates independence. The Grow Community is designed so that no one ever crosses a street while inside the community. Courtyards between homes are the protected close-in zones, with opportunity to meet the neighbors as the first integration into the larger community. Living in this community, a child will graduate to playing alone at the community center, with helpful eyes watching out for the unexpected. It takes a community to keep an independent child safe, to contribute to raising independent children.
When children graduate to the outer circles of the community, there are many options for walking and biking—to get to two nearby elementary schools, Ordway and Odyssey, the two Island middle schools, Sakai and Woodward, and the high schools, Bainbridge and Eagle Harbor. The library and a park is even closer. The Farmer’s Market is practically across the street. Hmmm. Maybe this smaller world helps us stay out of our cars and gives our kids the autonomy they crave a little earlier!
Leslie Schneider is a marketing and communications specialist with a history of building community. Leslie has worked with both start-ups and software giants offering messaging, marketing collateral, and training development. She is also a founding member and ‘graduate’ of cohousing, having developed and then lived in Jackson Place Cohousing (near downtown Seattle) for eight years. She served on the cohousing development LLC managing board for five years and was the owner’s representative for the 27-unit condominium construction. You can find her at Office Xpats, a co-working and conference center based on Bainbridge Island.