Students break in new trail along County Road B

City, county, and school officials gathered with Weaver Elementary students for the grand opening of the County Road B Trail Oct. 7. (Linda Baumeister/Review)
City, county, and school officials gathered with Weaver Elementary students for the grand opening of the County Road B Trail Oct. 7. (Linda Baumeister/Review)
Weaver students participated in the grand opening of the County Road B Trail by taking a walk Oct. 7. (Linda Baumeister/Review)
Weaver students participated in the grand opening of the County Road B Trail by taking a walk Oct. 7. (Linda Baumeister/Review)

Avion Miller, 10, helps usher underclassman across the street, on their way to Weaver Elementary in Maplewood.

As a fifth-grade patrol officer, he's trained in pedestrian safety. It's something he practices every day on his own short walk to school, remembering to look both ways twice before crossing the street.

While his route doesn't take him along the new County Road B trail, he knows it will keep his schoolmates off the street.

"The new trail will help kids get home safely," he says.

In celebration of International Walk to School Day, city staff and project partners attended a school assembly at Weaver on Oct. 7 to talk about walking safety and break in the new trail.

Birmingham to MCC

Principal Pangjua Xiong says there haven't been any major safety incidents in the past. But that may be attributed, in part, to the fact that many parents didn't let their kids walk to Webster because they didn't want them walking on the street.

"We're a neighborhood school," Xiong says, noting many students live within walking distance. "[Walking safety] is something we wanted to be more proactive about."

The County Road B path project began about a year and a half ago, when the city partnered with the schools, Ramsey County and an engineering consultant to secure nearly $600,000 in grant funding through Safe Routes to Schools and MnDOT. The city and county contributed financially as well, picking up 20 percent of the overall construction bill.

The new 8-foot-wide trail segment spans from Birmingham Street to the Maplewood Community Center. Safety amenities — which were co-designed by city staff and Bolton and Menk civil engineering firm — include new traffic signals at the intersections of County Road B and White Bear Avenue, a realignment of the County Road B and White Bear Avenue intersection, and two new pedestrian crossing signals at the intersections of County Road B and Birmingham Street and Germain Street.

The new trail, combined with the new crossing signals across the street from both John Glenn Middle School and Weaver Elementary, will serve to help get walkers to school safely.

"It's giving us a chance to get the kids off the street and on the trails," Maplewood parks manager Jim Taylor says.

Testing the trail

Weaver Elementary was among 600 schools across the nation — and one of just two in Minnesota — that participated in the annual International Walk to School Day event hosted by Safe Kids Minnesota and FedEx. 

The event is part of the national Safe Kids Walk This Way program, created by Safe Kids Worldwide and FedEx in 2000.

Speakers at the Weaver Elementary reviewed safety tips with students and presented a $500 Safe Kids grant that will be used to purchase a new bike rack and safety signage for the school. They also donated road safety books for students to bring home and share with their parents.

Then students got to stretch out their legs on the new trail, breaking it in after the official grand opening at 10 a.m.

"We want kids outside, active and having fun in areas that are safe, which is the best way to learn," says Erin Petersen, coordinator of Safe Kids Minnesota. "We applaud Weaver Elementary and the city of Maplewood for their commitment to keeping their kids and walking environments safe."

East-west corridor

With the construction of this new County Road B trail segment complete, the city moves one step closer to its goal of developing an east-west corridor through Maplewood.

In addition to providing students with a safe route to school, this new segment connects walkers and bikers with the Maplewood Community Center, Keller Lake Regional Park and the new boardwalk along Keller Lake.

Three more trail segments along County Road B remain to be completed: from McKnight Road to the Community Center, from Keller Lake to Edgerton Street, and from Interstate 35E to Rice Street.

The east-west pedestrian corridor fits in with Maplewood's Living Street Policy plan, adopted in 2013 to enhance biking and walking conditions, calm traffic, improve neighborhood aesthetics, and more.

"It fits with the overall guiding principles [of the city's Living Streets plan]," Taylor says. "One is to provide multimodal transportation options. This trail accomplishes that."

Erin Hinrichs can be reached at 651-748-7814 and ehinrichs@lillienews.com. Follow her at twitter.com/EHinrichsNews.

 

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