Henniker, Pembroke recommended for Safe Routes to School funds
The New Hampshire Safe Routes to School advisory committee has recommended Henniker and Pembroke for more than $150,000 each in federal grant money to improve poor sidewalks and encourage students to walk to school.
The two communities were among 11 in the state vying for a portion of a total of $1 million available to New Hampshire communities during this round of Safe Routes to School grant applications. The statewide advisory committee yesterday passed its recommendations to state Transportation Commissioner Christopher Clement, who will make a final decision on the awards within the next six weeks.
John Corrigan, Safe Routes to School coordinator for New Hampshire, said the program grew out of a desire to reduce the number of private cars driving children to school and idling in drop-off lines outside its doors. The federal grants reimburse 100 percent of the costs for towns and schools to improve walking and biking paths for their students.
The applications “generally include a combination of infrastructure projects and noninfrastructure projects,” Corrigan said. “The infrastructure projects are the physical changes that will make it safe for children to walk and ride bikes, like sidewalks and bike lanes. . . . The noninfrastructure side is planning and education. We want to make sure that the kids understand the rules of the road.”
Second-grade teacher Jennifer Jones has coordinated the Safe Routes to School grant application for Pembroke, which would allow her students at Pembroke Hill School to walk or bike to school more safely. The town has applied for and has been recommended for $152,728 to fund sidewalks along Pembroke Hill Road, where there currently are none.
“They love walking to school,” Jones said of her students. “They like being dropped off away from school and walking with friends. . . . When they come into the classroom, they seem refreshed and energized.”
If approved for money from Safe Routes to School, the sidewalk project would be added to a to-do list of other construction projects in Pembroke, Jones said. In spring 2015, the town plans to add a signalized crosswalk and stoplight to the intersection of Pembroke Hill Road and Route 3.
Jones said all of these updates, including the sidewalk construction, would add to initiatives already in place for the school to teach its students about pedestrian, bicycle and stranger safety. Last year, more than 165 students and 20 staff members participated in monthly walk-to-school days called Footloose Fridays, she said.
“We encourage students to walk or bicycle to school,” Jones said. “The most important part is education – teaching kids about safety measures while traveling to or from school.”
The town of Henniker has also applied for $214,431 to rebuild poor-quality sidewalks leading to Henniker Community School on Western Avenue. Portions of the sidewalk between Hall Avenue and Route 114 are not raised on a curb and are not easy to distinguish from the roadway, Town Administrator Tom Yennerell said.
“In some cases, it’s just a painted line on the asphalt,” Yennerell said. “The street and the sidewalk are really on the same plane, and there’s only a painted white line.”
Parents have expressed concern about students walking to school on inadequate sidewalks during morning traffic, Yennerell said.
“A lot of people have told us, ‘Yeah, we’d prefer to have our children walk to school, but we currently do not feel that many of the routes they would have to walk are safe, so we drive them,’ ” Yennerell said.
Hopkinton Town Administrator Neal Cass said his town has applied for $227,817 to put toward a similar use: building up the partial sidewalk on Kearsarge Avenue near the Hopkinton Middle/High School. Hopkinton’s application was not one of those recommended during this round of grant applications, but the town has received Safe Routes to School funds in the past.
The Harold Martin School is one of those in Hopkinton to benefit from Safe Routes to School grant money in the past, Cass said.
“The community very strongly encourages wellness and students being outside and walking and biking and really getting good exercise, getting fresh air,” Cass said.
Other communities recommended for the grants are Bristol, Claremont and Colebrook, Corrigan said, and the committee recommended partial funding for bicycle projects in Keene and Portsmouth. Along with Hopkinton, the communities of Lebanon, Plaistow and Nashua have not been recommended to receive the funds for which they applied.
The state will open a seventh and final round of grant applications for Safe Routes to School money in early winter, Corrigan said.
“It’s a program I think that has gained a lot of grassroots support all across the state. . . . It’s simply a good idea to get children outside and more active,” he said.
(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or
firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)