by Dennis Dalman
Sartell has become an admired model for the Safe Routes to School program, and Dawn Moen of CentraCare can’t seem to find enough nice things to say about it.
“Sartell has done a lot of work in planning, infrastructure and encouragement for Safe Routes to School,” Moen said. “We’re using Sartell as an ideal model as we promote the program in other areas.”
The whole point of Safe Routes to School is to encourage children to walk or bike to school safely for healthy exercise. Moen is program specialist for CentraCare’s Better Living: Exercise and Nutrition Daily, also known as BLEND. Part of her job is to promote and to work with others for the creation of Safe Routes to School implementation.
Moen praised Sartell city staff and Sartell Planner/Developer Anita Rasmussen particularly for the program’s success. Last year, the city applied for and was awarded a $500,000 Safe Routes to School grant, which it will use to install a sidewalk all the way from the police department to Pinecone Road, along the south side of 2nd Street S. The city will also apply for a new round of funding for Safe Routes to School, money allowed by the legislature in its state bonding bill.
In addition, Sartell was awarded a grant to plan for the Safe Routes to School concept and then did meticulous planning on how to implement it through a renewed focus on paths, trails and sidewalks.
Safe Routes to School involves more than just installing trails, paths and sidewalks. A key element is to implement safety programs to keep children safe going to and from school, such as crossing guards at intersections. Another safety factor is the recent installation of driver speed feedback signs along Pinecone Road and 7th Street N. in Sartell, which are extremely busy streets because of the location of three schools in that area: the high school, middle school and Pine Meadow Elementary School. The radar signs flash to let drivers know if they are going too fast for the school speed limit. Money for those signs came from a grant, from the city, from CentraCare and from the school district.
“Safe Routes to School is going really well in Sartell in terms of awareness and some of the changes, like the driver warning signs,” Moen said.
Earlier this month, on Oct. 8, students in Sartell’s Morningstar neighborhood, were encouraged to bike or walk to school and then stop at homes to pick up other students to walk or bike with them. It was International Walk to School Day. It was, said Moen, a success.
Moen also praised Sartell for many people networking around the concept of safety for children. For example, the police department hosts an annual bike-safety rodeo for children, and there has been training for local educators in a 10-week biking and pedestrian curriculum.
Moen said she is confident Sartell will soon have an excellent Safe Routes to School program and children will begin to enjoy walking and biking to school, knowing the city will keep them safe.