Local effort to promote walking gains steam

One of the great things about living in an urban environment is being able to walk around town to get some exercise and see people and breathe in the fresh air. The efforts of group of parents at a Waynesboro elementary school who are working with the city and the federal government to improve pedestrian access for students and parents could end up having an interesting spillover effect for many more people.

I first heard about the efforts of Berkeley Glenn Elementary School to apply for a Safe Routes to School Grant last month at a Waynesboro Downtown Development Inc. merchants meeting. Berkeley Glenn parent Terry Short and physical-education teacher Michael Freeman were on hand for the meeting to talk up the effort and also the upcoming April 20-24 Walk to School Week at Berkeley Glenn.

Out of that merchants meeting came a commitment from several downtown merchants to participate in the first annual Walk Downtown Weekend that will give students and parents at Berkeley Glenn who participate in Walk to School Week discounts for shopping and eating at their businesses. Three merchants – Bill Mikolay at Main Street Discount, Crystal Graham here at our parent company, Augusta Free Press Publishing, and Jennifer Ledford at Kids & Sew On, offered to donate, design and print T-shirts for the week of walking activities.

Then we get the news on Friday that the Safe Routes to School Grant application has won approval in the amount of $236,756, which will go for infrastructure improvements in routes accessing Berkeley Glenn Elementary and for educational programs on the benefits of walking and regular exercise.

Assistant City Manager Jim Shaw indicated in a memo on the news on Friday that coordination on the improvements between the school system and engineers in the city will begin once he receives an authorization to proceed.

“I think this is great news,” Shaw said.

I have to wholeheartedly agree. The infrastructure improvements will of course have an impact outside parents and students at Berkeley Glenn. The improved pedestrian access between the Tree Streets and Club Court areas and the school zone will improve the quality of life for residents of those areas whether they have children in the school systems or not. My wife and I regularly walk and bike these areas since we also live in the Tree Streets area, and while much of the immediate area is in solid shape in terms of pedestrian and bike access, there are key pockets where the lack of sidewalks and confusing traffic interchanges and absence of safe crosswalks can be a serious hindrance.

We’ll have more on this public-private community-improvement effort in our May ’09 issue of The New Dominion Magazine.


– Story by Chris Graham

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