Walk a mile in Jim Pool’s shoes

Ferndale resident tackles goal of walking every street in the city

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published October 13, 2015


FERNDALE — There isn’t one street in Ferndale that Jim Pool hasn’t seen.

What about Shasta Place, a road that isn’t even a block long and is only accessible from Fox Street before it dead-ends before Marshfield Street? Pool has been there.

Or how about the portions of roads like Brickley and Coy streets that are on the Hazel Park and Ferndale border, near the freeway, and are as far as possible from Pool’s home and work? Yes, he has been there too.

Pool, 43, a few years ago made it his goal to walk every street in Ferndale, but it wasn’t until this spring that he set out to make his goal a reality. After taking some time off in the summer for family vacations and the hottest days of the year, Pool was able to wrap up his mission at the beginning of October.

“It came from this sense of, I have lived in Ferndale for 13 years, but I had this desire to want to know my city more and fall more in love with my community,” Pool said. “In a way, I wanted to be a good citizen and responsible member of the community. It may sound cheesy, but I wanted to put love for my city in my heart, and walking is good exercise, so it made sense.”

Three years ago, Pool said, the idea to walk every street came to him, and he printed a map of Ferndale and made a note on his computer, but both sat untouched until April of this year.

As the lead pastor at Renaissance Vineyard Church, just north of Nine Mile Road on the west side of Ferndale, Pool said he started walking to work from his house, as his family, which includes four children, often had only one vehicle.

So, when Pool had to recover his malfunctioning computer this spring, he saw the note he had made to himself three years ago.

“It was one of those serendipitous moments where I landed on this note I had made myself to walk the city, and I knew I really needed to do this,” he said. “So I set about doing it by taking walks during a 3 p.m. work break, or starting my morning with a walk and thinking about what I was doing for the day. As I went, I highlighted where I had walked on a map.”

With four kids who are either in elementary or middle school, Pool said that during the school year he would walk straight from work to his home, but during the summer he would take a different route to and from work and his house, which is on the southeast side of Ferndale, with the two located about 2 miles apart.

Pool started his task in mid-May with the goal of finishing before the Fourth of July, but with about 80 percent of his work complete, he became busy with family and work activities, so he didn’t do much exploring during July or August.

During his time walking, Pool said he came across streets, structures and businesses he didn’t know existed, including a street off Drayton Avenue on the Oak Park border he still can’t recall the name of that he had driven by numerous times but never noticed.

“There was one block that had all this medieval-style architecture, and I saw tons of houses that just look really cool,” Pool said. “People have put a lot of work into their homes and maintaining their homes, and you can tell.”

For Ferndale Mayor Dave Coulter, he knows Pool as being a friendly guy, so he wasn’t surprised to hear of what he was trying to do. Coulter even hopes to get some useful information from Pool’s quest.

“On one hand, I’m not surprised at all, because he is very much a people person and a friendly, outgoing guy, but on the other hand, I am surprised he doesn’t already know everybody and everything in Ferndale,” Coulter joked. “We try to encourage all modes of transportation, including walking, and now that he has done this, I will be curious to talk to him to see how walkable our community actually is.”

One of the surprises Pool encountered during his walks was realizing just how many parks Ferndale has, both big and small, and how accessible they are for the residents.

Coulter said that he is happy to hear Pool was able to see how far the parks have come in recent years.

“There is something like 18 parks in our community, and in a small community, parks are important assets,” he said. “They help create community by bringing people together, and that is why they have been a big focus of mine since I became mayor.”

In fact, Pool feels like his walk has been able to aid in bringing the community together. Throughout his progress, he would post photos on Facebook periodically, and they quickly received a lot of attention from people wishing him luck or wanting to know when he would walk past their houses.

While Pool said he may tackle Oak Park, Pleasant Ridge or even Detroit next, he said he hopes others branch out and experience Ferndale the way he did.

“To me, it is fascinating to see how people have this sense of wanting to celebrate and see simple things like this in their community,” he said. “People in our city really care about this city and their blocks and one another, and I think I saw evidence of that everywhere I walked.”