Esko wins grant for trail to schoolsEsko students will have a safer way to walk and bike to school in 2013.
By: Jana Hollingsworth, Duluth News Tribune
Esko students will have a safer way to walk and bike to school in 2013.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation has awarded Thomson Township about $243,000 to design and build a 10-foot-wide trail to connect a large residential area to Esko schools. The trail would run adjacent to the four-lane Highway 61 that has been a source of worry for parents.
“It was the No. 1 safety concern parents had, with kids walking along Highway 61 to school,” said Ellen Pillsbury, a senior planner with the Arrowhead Regional Development Commission, who helped the township apply for the grant.
The Esko district did a safety study in 2009 and surveyed parents. Many said there was a need for a walking and biking trail for students. The district and the township have been working on the project since then. Carlton County is handling the money for the trail, which would be on the south side of the highway and run for about a half-mile, beginning at Maple Drive and ending at the school.
“It’s a really good opportunity because the funds do allow for preliminary engineering work to be done, which is usually hard for towns to find funds to afford,” Pillsbury said. “It’s pretty exciting to have this grant in our region.”
The project is the only one awarded money in the Northeastern Minnesota MnDOT district.
Esko Public Schools Superintendent Aaron Fischer said he supports the plan.
“I understand that any time you add some new infrastructure, there are some things you have to take a look at as far as people’s properties. … But from a standpoint of kids accessing the town and school district, this would be a great service to allow kids to have a safe route to school.”
About 1,200 kids attend school in Esko. Pillsbury said the project was expected to be completed by the end of 2013.
The federal Safe Routes to School grant is part of $3.8 million the department gave to 16 projects in the state.