These routes are made for walkin’

Everybody knows Sophie. That, and it’s not as long a walk from the 500 block of Chestnut to Berkeley Glenn as I’d thought it might be.

“The point is you can do it. There are some obstacles. But you can walk a mile to school. That’s what we’re trying to get across here,” said Michael Freeman, a physical-education teacher at Berkeley Glenn Elementary in Waynesboro, which had its first spring Walk to School Week in April, with an estimated 60 percent of the school’s nearly 300 students taking part by walking to school at least three times in the five-day week.

Freeman has organized Walk to School Weeks each fall since joining the staff at BGES four years ago. The spring week came at the suggestion of Berkeley Glenn parent Terry Short, a member of the Waynesboro Planning Commission and a transportation planner with the local Virginia Department of Transportation Staunton office.

Short pushed the city into action on a walking-related issue as well, writing a grant proposal that was ultimately approved by VDOT that will provide $236,756 to the city to improve pedestrian access to the school from the Tree Streets and Club Court.

“I have a much deeper appreciation for how cool walking to school can be as a parent than I ever did as a kid,” Short said. “The guy who plants his community garden over in the corner there. How people will pause for you as you cross the road there at the entrance to Invista. Crossing the bridge and looking down the river to see if we can see fish in the morning. Simple things. And as we do those things in the morning calling those things out to her, things that she wouldn’t see sitting on a school bus.”

I even noticed something new on my walk to school with the Shorts and their neighbors on Wednesday of Walk to School Week – an alley running down from Jefferson Avenue that I’d never seen in all my years of using Jefferson as a link between downtown and the interstate exit off South Delphine.

And I got to know Sophie, downtown business owner Jennifer Ledford’s bulldog who is pretty much the Norm from “Cheers” fame of the Tree Streets, the way everybody that we encountered on our walk to school and back seemed to know her name.

“We don’t walk to school every day. Everybody is busy. We all have busy lives. But the idea is, if you can walk two, three days out of the week, it can provide something that we all took for granted when we were younger,” Short said.

  

– Story by Chris Graham


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