Do kids still walk or ride their bike to school? Or the park, the pool, a friend’s house?
We did, when I was a kid, back in the ‘olden days.’
And, they still do.
Well, maybe not quite so much in the dead of winter. But, they do the rest of the year. Last June, a study was conducted near the end of the school year, and 40 percent of the kids in the BEA Middle and Elementary Schools walked or biked to school that particular day.
So say the folks involved with the Blue Earth Active Living Coalition. They explained at a public meeting last week how they are trying to develop ‘Safe Routes to Schools.’
They are concerned, however, that Blue Earth does not always have an environment for safe walking and biking.
Last Tuesday night a small group of local citizens met at the community library to discuss issues which deal with promoting an active (healthier) lifestyle in Blue Earth.
What they lacked in numbers, they more than made up for in their passion.
Several members of the group spoke about a lack of safe sidewalks and paths for walking, and no special lanes for bikes.
“I won’t ride my bike on Main Street,” says Dave Kittleson, an avid walker and biker. “Except at 5:30 in the morning when there isn’t any traffic.”
Sarah Fering and Robyn Beach-Olson, both parents of small children, agreed.
“I’d like to take my kids to the pool by riding our bikes in the summer,” Fering says. “But, there is not a safe route to do it.”
The group discussed having designated walkways, and bike lanes in the city.
And, they also were vocal about trails.
City Councilman Glenn Gaylord was in attendance and spoke passionately about his many ideas.
“You don’t want to get me started,” he says. “I’d like to see us connect up the trails we have, and connect to Steinberg Park.”
Gaylord also says he would like to see a cross country ski trail, perhaps linking up around Brown?Lake, and the Moses Sailor monument.
“What I really think we need is a canoe trail,” Gaylord told the group on Tuesday night. “We have this beautiful Blue Earth River, and we don’t utilize it at all.”
He says he would like to see a couple of landings on the river where canoes could easily be dropped into the water, or taken back out.
Others heartily agreed with him, citing the amount of tourist traffic which towns such as Lanesboro generate during the summer.
“I’ve canoed the Root River there, and the Blue Earth River here,” Gaylord told the group. “Their river is nice in some spots, but in many cases the Blue Earth River is nicer.”
Several members of the group said promoting canoe use of the river was a great idea.
The enthusiasm of the group, and the passion of those who spoke, was good to see.
Most of the 18 or so people present were in favor of doing as much as possible to promote walking, biking, canoeing or other forms of active living.
If the whole community of Blue Earth feels this way, it will be surprising if some improvements in this area are not accomplished in the next year or two.
Last fall the crosswalks at the school were finally painted, using part of the grant money from the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) which is the sponsoring organization for Blue Earth’s Active Living Coalition.
If even some of the ideas discussed on Tuesday night come to fruition, it will mean big improvements to Blue Earth.
Try to imagine a walking/biking trail that circles the city, and has extensions to the I-90 rest stop, Steinberg Park, and Brown Lake.
Or designated walk ways on sidewalks and paths inside the city. Safe cross walks in the city and along Highway 169.
And, the cross walks all freshly painted, so they are easily recognizable.
Bicycle lanes easily recognizable because they are a different color than the rest of the street, and clearly marked as such.
Canoes traveling up and down the river, perhaps from Blue Earth north to Winnebago.
Groomed cross country ski trails, which can also follow the perimeter of the city, and along the river bottom area.
If the people who are passionate about these things have their say, these ideas will be more than just pipe dreams.
They will be an exciting reality.