Grant to help identify safe routes to school in Steamboat

County, city and school district partnership wins federal funds

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— A recently awarded grant is intended to help Steamboat kindergarten through eighth-grade students get to school safely.

The Colorado Department of Transportation awarded Routt County, the city of Steamboat Springs and the Steamboat Springs School District a $16,500 Safe Routes to School grant for 2010.

Safe Routes to School is a federal program that encourages students to walk or bike to school. The program awards grants for infrastructure projects or educational efforts.

County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said the grant would fund creation of a child-friendly map for students and their parents that would identify safe routes to many city locations in addition to schools, such as Howelsen Hill, movie theaters and the swimming pool.

She said it also would fund a Bicycle Rodeo that would take place early next year to focus on bicycle and safety training. And Mitsch Bush said the grant would fund a kiosk at Strawberry Park Elementary School created by students where they could track the positive environmental impacts of walking and biking to school.

“We’re not just focusing on biking, but kids’ awareness on lifelong healthy activity and how their awareness can make a difference,” she said.

Mitsch Bush said the idea to apply for the grant came up during a meeting of the Pedestrian-Bike Working Group, of which she is chairwoman. It’s a subcommittee of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Asso­ciation’s Transportation Solu­tions Committee.

Mitsch Bush said members of her group continually discussed how to find ways for youths to safely get around in Steamboat by foot or on their bikes. She said the Pedestrian-Bike Working Group formed a subcommittee to create a grant proposal for Safe Routes to School.

Paige Boucher, one of four parents on the subcommittee that had worked since August to create the grant, started a program five years ago to encourage students at Strawberry Park to bike or hike to school.

She said the program evolved into one where students from different neighborhoods would meet once a week in the fall to ride or bike to school with a parent. Boucher said students took the trail that runs along Butcherknife Creek but that there were still safety concerns among parents.

The Safe Routes to School grant would further the Straw­berry Park program to encourage students to bike or walk to school, Boucher said

“It’s great to have some actual funds behind us to do a map and community support behind us because it really has been a grass-roots thing up until now,” she said.

Other parents on the subcommittee were Boucher’s husband, Butch, Sandi Gibson and Theresa Lichtenfels. Mitsch Bush said Janet Hruby and Laura Anderson, public works engineers for the city, also participated in the grant discussions. And she said Johanna Hall, the grant writer for Routt County Riders, put together the grant application.

Mitsch Bush said she expects the funding to be awarded in July or August. And Mitsch Bush said she hopes encouraging Steamboat students to safely bike and walk to school will be an ongoing process regardless of future grant opportunities.

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