I have been a student at Shepherdstown University for over three years now and have never been quite sturdy on my feet. I mean that literally. The sidewalks on and off campus are some of the worst I've ever laid eyes and feet on.
Since the construction on the underpass for Shepherd University (a construction project that has received mixed feelings since its continuation through the semester) the students have been forced to take High Street about a block north. High Street was never intended for high traffic and it shows. The sad sight is a river of crooked sheets of concrete, random gravel paths and sinking bricks. The sidewalk is so narrow and broken that some students prefer to walk in the streets.
Some of the other streets on Shepherdstown aren't that well off either. There are places where the sidewalk shifts to accommodate the slope of the ground, places where they just end, and cracks throughout.
The curbs never seem to equalize either. Some places the curb can reach up to five to six inches, while across the street the curb barely scrapes two. The result leads to amateurish and even immature look. Less like a historic town and more like a quickly built town.
German Street is the exception with its newer sidewalks, but the renovations seem to end towards the horrible High Street. It is really odd that only one road got renovated and even then not all the way through. Was it worth keeping up the appearance of one road when the faade falls apart once you take one step onto a different street?
The underpass is a monumental undertaking for Shepherdstown and the construction and rerouting of traffic has strained town-gown relations. But I would have much preferred a simpler solution (such as an overpass or light system) than spend the money on a tunnel. That money could have been used to fix the sidewalks rather than thrown down a hole in the ground.
I write this article because two weeks ago I took a fall on High Street that bashed my knee, scraped open both my hands and scratched my face and glasses. It was after my foot caught a raised slab of sidewalk that was half buried in the gravel. I don't know how many people have taken falls as bad as mine, but I have seen them try to stay upright as the bricks (just placed in the dirt) sink and squish beneath their feet.
I love Shepherdstown, the historic buildings and campus is beautiful. I also want to feel safe as I walk among these places and the current sidewalks aren't doing it. I don't think that fixing the concrete will mess with the historical value of the houses, it might even increase it because then we could be able to do larger tours around town. The next project that Shepherdstown should work on is fixing these walkways. Even though the buildings were made by Free Masons, the sidewalks look like they were made by numb skulls.