WHITEWOOD | Bev Rosenboom is thrilled that another section of sidewalk is going in along Laurel Street in Whitewood.

As principal at Whitewood Elementary School, Rosenboom supports efforts that keep her students safe.

"It's nice to know that children of all ages won't have to walk on the road anymore," she said.

The city of Whitewood has been working with the state to add and expand sidewalks near Whitewood Elementary School, according to Jackie Hoffman, the city's assistant finance officer and grant writer.

The city received a $140,000 Safe Routes to Schools state grant, which expands education and infrastructure to encourage walking and biking to school, Hoffman said.

The grant added sidewalks to the east side of the Laurel Street from its intersection with Hooker Street to the U.S. Post Office, Hoffman said. Crosswalks will be improved on Garfield and Sherman streets, Hoffman said.

The grant also pays for student education on safely walking and riding to school.

"It's been a real collaborative effort," Rosenboom said. "I think it's a wonderful thing for Whitewood."

Crews began work last week on the section of Laurel Street which meets up with sidewalks leading to the elementary school.

"The addition of the sidewalks also expands our opportunity for going places around town," Rosenboom said.

Part of the grant money also was used to purchase red wagons and coolers staff can use to take when students make trips to the local parks.

The U.S. Department of Transportation began the Safe Routes to Schools grant program to encourage walking and biking.

Many of us remember a time when walking and bicycling to school was a part of everyday life. In 1969, about half of all students walked or bicycled to school. Today, however, the story is very different. Fewer than 15 percent of all school trips are made by walking or bicycling, one-quarter are made on a school bus, and over half of all children arrive at school in private automobiles.

This decline in walking and bicycling has had an adverse effect on traffic congestion and air quality around schools, as well as pedestrian and bicycle safety. In addition, a growing body of evidence has shown that children who lead sedentary lifestyles are at risk for a variety of health problems such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Safety issues are a big concern for parents, who consistently cite traffic danger as a reason why their children are unable to bicycle or walk to school.

The purpose of the Federal Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Program is to address these issues head on. At its heart, the SRTS Program empowers communities to make walking and bicycling to school a safe and routine activity once again. The Program makes funding available for a wide variety of programs and projects, from building safer street crossings to establishing programs that encourage children and their parents to walk and bicycle safely to school.

And, in conjunction with the continuing effort to education the Whitewood community about Safe Routes to Schools, there will be a 1K run/walk at 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 18.

The event will start in front of the Whitewood Fire Hall. Students age preschool through sixth grade are encouraged to participate.

"Come run on the new sidewalks," organizers said.

Parents and older siblings also are encouraged to come out for the event.

The registration form must be turned in to the Whitewood School or the Whitewood library by May 8 to get a free T-shirt.

Door prizes also will be given out at the event.

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