Walking for safer routes to school

BALDWIN — The community of Baldwin has a chance to come together to provide safer routes for kids as they walk to school.

Baldwin Community Schools, along with the Village of Baldwin and the Lake County Road Commission are working toward a Safe Routes to School grant to improve walking and biking routes to school.

As a requirement for the grant, a walk must be conducted to examine routes and look for safety concerns and areas needing improvement.

Students, school staff and community members are invited to participate in the walk. Participants are to meet at 3:15 p.m. at the secondary cafeteria at the Baldwin High School on Wednesday, Aug. 30.

Safe Routes to School Contracts Coordinator Max Fulkerson said  the walk is to encourage input from the community.

"We will look at the routes students normally take to school, and look for dangerous areas and how to improve them," he said. "We will walk the three to four most used routes and will identify concerning factors. After the walk, we will list the biggest priorities for infrastructure improvement."

There are two kinds of grants offered with the Safe Routes to School program, Fulkerson said.

"If the community agrees on the major grant, amounting in $200,000 per school, there will be infrastructure improvements, sidewalk repair and new sidewalks installed," he said. "The major grant also provides $8,000 for non-infrastructure programs, such as encouraging students to walk or bike to school more, and for those who take a bus to have an opportunity to walk with an adult the final leg to school, to encourage exercise. This grants also will promote walking clubs."

The mini-grant, which provides $5,000, is for non-infrastructure programs only.

"Mini-grant applications require much less work to put together, but depending on the community, may not address the needs or produce the desired outcome such as more and safer walking and biking opportunities for students between home and school in areas where infrastructure is absent or in disrepair," Fulkerson said.

Fulkerson will collaborate with the walkers to see what programs will work for the community and submit the plan to the Michigan Department of Transportation as part of the Federal Highway Administration.

"The more involvement from the community, the better the solutions will be to help facilitate decisions," he said.

For more information about the grants and the program, visit the webside saferoutesmichigan.org.