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Needham Elementary students celebrate safer sidewalks

Project provides opportune time for a civics lesson

Needham Elementary students marched Wednesday morning along clean, even sidewalks along Arroyo Drive with signs declaring “I love biking to school” and “I love nice sidewalks.”

Contractors finished the sidewalks along Arroyo and Columbine drives on the west side of the school this summer. Completion came after construction delays from weather and shallow gas lines in 2015.

They replaced narrow sidewalks with wider walkways buffered from the road and created walkways that bulb out into the intersections, making them safer.

“Think about how unsafe that was when the sidewalk was right next to the road,” said Kimi Hanson, a second-grade teacher told her students.

Hanson’s class is learning civics and how choices affect the community. The unit started with choices of the students in the classroom and expanded to the larger community.

“The city made a choice that makes our lives safer,” she said.

The project, near Needham Elementary school, was identified as a priority in 2012 and a federal Safe Routes to School grant for $292,000 covered a piece of the project, which cost about $400,000.

The funding also covered two weeks of educational events at Needham about walking and biking to school, and another event is planned, said Amber Blake the transportation and sustainability director.

“You are one of our precious resources, and we want you to be safe,” Councilor Dick White, told students.

The city plans to build sidewalks along Columbine Drive from Cottonwood Drive to Clovis Drive as part of the next phase of this project. The design for this will likely start in 2017, and construction will follow in 2018.

“While most of you are still in this school, it will be completed,” White said.

The city received a $437,500 Safe Routes to School grant and a $690,240 Transportation Alternatives Program grant for the second phase of the project. The city also received an additional $5,000 grant for education at Park and Riverview Elementary schools.

In preparation for the construction, the city will hold meetings with the neighborhood because one side of on-street parking along Columbine Drive will likely be eliminated, Blake said.

mshinn@durangoherald.com

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