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City, school pair to get kids to school safer

There are three sections of sidewalks around Rossman and Roosevelt elementary schools in Detroit Lakes that will be getting portions of sidewalk constructed thanks to a Safe Routes to School grant. Graphic Courtesy of Ulteig Engineeers

This fall, those walking to school in Detroit Lakes will be a little safer.

Thanks to a federal grant through the National Center for Safe Routes to School program, three sections of sidewalk will be constructed, bringing kids to Rossman and Roosevelt elementary schools.

The city and school district paired together and determine the best routes for students and the public.

"Rossman Elementary has the most students that walk to it right now," Public Works Director Brad Green said.

"And Rossman students go to the senior high for different events, and they've got to be able to walk there, and they can't walk there without sidewalks. It was just a natural fit."

Green said it helped with the grant process that they were able to tie in the city park, schools, ball fields, arenas, etc.

"This was a joint application between the City of Detroit Lakes and the school district," City Engineer Jon Pratt said.

Green with the city and former business manager Ted Heisserer with the school hired Cyndi Anderson of Mosaic Consulting to craft the grant from Safe Routes to School. They used a grant from Healthy Minnesota Partnership to write the grant for the sidewalk grant.

"The school and the city had looked at areas, particularly around Rossman, the middle school and Roosevelt schools for deficiencies in pedestrian access to those sites," Pratt said.

"What came out of it ultimately is three different areas that we wanted to make improvements."

The three sections include the north side of Forest Street from Lake Avenue to Rossman Avenue. It will be a six-foot wide sidewalk, located directly behind the curb -- so, there won't be a boulevard -- to minimize impacts to the properties in that area.

"There's no sidewalk and there's a lot of residential south and east of the school," Pratt said of that route.

The second section is the east side of Rossman Avenue from Willow Street to Holmes Street. It will be the same type and placement of sidewalk, directly behind the curb.

When Rossman students want to attend events at the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center, they have to be bused. This new section of sidewalk will allow them to walk there safely instead.

"They have to go up Summit (Avenue) and jog around," Green said of the route taken now. "Hopefully this will create a safe walk and promote healthy living."

The last section will benefit Roosevelt elementary and middle school students.

"There is some sidewalk on Central Street up in that area, but it's kind of a bit broken up. It jumps from side to side and has some gaps in it, things like that," Pratt said.

So the project will construct a sidewalk mainly on the south side of Central Street, with a small portion on the north side of the street.

The sidewalk would then continue up the east side of 11th Avenue to West River Road.

"There's a housing area there, and it's just trying to provide a connection from that area over towards the school, and then kind of improve some of the sidewalk availability immediately by the school. It's not so segmented and broken up," he said.

Kids are already using the routes determined by the city and school, but they are forced to walk in the street.

"It was pretty easy to pick them," Green said of the routes. "Kids are already using them and we wanted to give them a safe environment."

Because this is a federal project, there are more hoops to getting the project completed. Plans were drawn up last winter, were approved in June, and bids were let this month. They will be opened July 24.

After the bids are determined, Pratt said if they happen to be higher than the grant -- which is $278,000 -- some adjustments to the plans can be made to fit within the grant money limits. No taxes or general fund money will be used for it.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.