IRONWOOD - The city of Ironwood has received a $386,614 Safe Routes to School grant from the Michigan Department of Transportation.
It will fund new sidewalks and bicycle paths near the Luther L. Wright-Norrie School, as well as programs to help students walk and bike to school safely.
A local Safe Routes to School team has been working with state officials for more than a year. The team includes representatives from the Ironwood School District, city of Ironwood, city parks and recreation committee, Ironwood Parent-Teacher Organization and Coleman Engineering.
"The team conducted student and parent surveys and observed students coming and going to school to create an action plan and grant proposal specific to the Ironwood Schools," said Ian Shackleford, coordinator for the project.
Michigan's Safe Routes to School program is run by the Michigan Fitness Foundation. Shackleford said the foundation was "integral to the success of this grant award."
New sidewalks along Lake, Park and Curry streets will be funded, and spur trails will connect the upcoming Gateway Trail to the Luther L. Wright-Norrie School. The project also includes new crosswalks, signs and funding for the school district to hire a part-time Safe Routes to School coordinator.
Schackleford previously addressed the city commission about a plan to construct or repair 1.7 miles of sidewalks and bicycle paths.
He said a survey of students showed about 62 percent would like to walk or bike to school if they could, and 11 percent would skateboard to classes if possible, if there were safer routes to school.
Shackleford said 80 percent of the grant comes from federal funding, with 20 percent obtained from the state. Local funding will help pay required surveys, design and contract administration.
Shackleford thanked supporters of the project. "Our grant application was successful because of the support from people across Ironwood. We received financial commitments from the city, Ironwood Area Schools, the Ironwood Parent Teacher Organization, Ironwood Professional Business and Professional Women's Club, the GRRRR Bike Ride and the Kiwanis Club."
Ironwood Community Development Director Michael Brown said, "This is a great achievement for the city of Ironwood and the school district. This project is a great way to kick off implementation of the city's new comprehensive plan, which discusses improving the city's pedestrian system."
Nicholas Steinmetz, principal for Sleight and Norrie Schools, said, "This is an amazing accomplishment to secure such a large grant. Ironwood Area Schools will move forward with the encouragement, education and enforcement parts of the Safe Routes to School action plan."
"The Ironwood Area Schools views this grant award as another positive step in our transition to one K-12 educational facility. This is a monumental step in creating a safer environment for all students and the community as a whole," said superintendent Tim Kolesar.
For more information on the Michigan Safe Routes to School Program, visit saferoutesmichigan.org.