I was pleased to happen across this update on Safe Routes efforts in New Hampshire (my home state) in the National Partnership's e-newsletter. I was even more pleased to see my elementary school (Ed Fenn Elementary in Gorham, NH) called out for their year-round walking school bus. While today's weather is frosty by Portland standards, this would be a nice spring day in northern New Hampshire. Check out these intrepid students!
Students join a twice-weekly Walking School Bus whatever the weather in Gorham, NH
New Hampshire’s Unique Approach to Safe Routes to School
Healthy competition seen over five cycles of funding
New Hampshire is known as the host of the first-in-the-nation primary, the home of the highest mountain peak in the Northeast and as the state with the nation’s shortest coast line. It should be no surprise that the “Live Free or Die” state would have its own unique approaches to Safe Routes to School. A healthy competition for federal funds over five Safe Routes to School funding cycles has generated practical and effective projects for getting kids outside and active; the 5th cycle funding was awarded in September 2011. It’s a strong start, and communities are busy planning for future grant cycles.
For a small New England state, New Hampshire has a remarkable diversity of fiercely independent localities. They include the suburban communities of the southern tier, the small industrial cities of the Merrimack Valley and tight-knit towns scattered across the Granite State.
In the tourist and industrial town at the base of the range that includes Mt. Washington, children in Gorham have proudly joined twice-a-week walking school buses right through the teeth of the North Country winter. Children in nearby Littleton converge on the elementary school from multiple directions, walking in groups or pedaling with rolling bike trains.
A strong bicycling and walking culture is reflected in the walking school buses in the Connecticut Valley city of Lebanon, where a new sidewalk will soon provide a safer route to an elementary school. Along the Massachusetts border, new sidewalks along busy state routes offer a safe journey to quieter residential streets in New Ipswich and Brookline. Construction began this fall for sidewalks, crosswalks and tip-down ramps for the streets near an urban elementary school in Manchester. The programs work because local Safe Routes to School task forces identify the barriers and craft solutions that work at the community level.
For more information on New Hampshire’s Safe Routes to School program, contact New Hampshire Department of Transportation Safe Routes to School coordinator, John Corrigan.