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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Walk-Abouts In Stamford

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Stamford, Vt. elementary school students walked from Sully's Driving Range to the Route 8 school on Oct. 4 in honor of "International Walk to School Day."
Stamford, Vt. - Stamford school students were among an international contingent of pupils honoring an Oct. 4 International Walk to School initiative.

About 60 students accompanied by two town Selectmen, several teachers, parents, school committee members and state Rep. Philip Bartlett R-Windham/Bennington gathered at Sully's Driving Range and, at about 8 a.m., began a group walk to school.

Members of the Bennington County Sheriff's Department and the Stamford Volunteer Fire Department provided traffic control during the about half-mile trek along Route 8 to the school.

Eighth grade student Colton Primmer, 13, of Nichols Road, explained the walk.

"We're walking to support the community and to get people to get more activity," he said.

There was another incentive for hoofing it as well, said Arich Erdeski, 13, an eighth grade student who resides on Lincoln Road.

"There are good snacks that we're going to get when we get to school," he said.

Safe Routes To School Grant


from left, Stamford School Directors Chairwoman Cynthia Lamore, Selectmen's Chairman William Morehouse, school Principal Beth Keplinger. Lamore, Morehouse, and Keplinger participated during a "walk to school day" event.
The school was awarded an up to $1,500 state "Safe Routes To School" grant earlier this year. The grant funds are expected to be awarded over the next two years and are earmarked for projects and endeavors that promote safe walking and bicycling routes to school.

The long term goals of the grant include eligibility for federal funds that would be used to construct sidewalks and crosswalks as well as install signs and lights to warn vehicle traffic of pedestrian traffic at and around the school.

Selectmen's Chairman William Morehouse read a "Walk to School Day" proclamation just before students stepped off; during a subsequent interview, Morehouse said the town has applied for an enhancement grant that could provide funds for sidewalks, crosswalks, and illuminated signs.

The Bigger Picture

The walking project isn't focused entirely on students, said Morehouse and school board of directors Chairwoman Cynthia Lamore. The town's senior population are also intended beneficiaries of the program, both said.

A plan to erect a cluster of senior resident housing within the town's center has been under discussion, Morehouse said.

Installation of sidewalks and cross walks would create a safer walking environment for students as well as seniors, who might want to visit the town library, which is located within the school, conduct business at the Town Hall, also located at the school, or serve as a school volunteer.

"This is a beginning," Morehouse said of the walk, "We are hoping to be able to put in sidewalks and some nice, visible crosswalks, and change our signs to reflect the school hours as they are now. We'd like to get the lights that can be programmed to go on at specific times. Walking does promote health and fights obesity, which is a problem. Walking promotes community. We are hoping that it all comes together."

Lamore said the participation was very encouraging. Students enrolled in kindergarten through grade 8 tackled the walk.

"I am ever so pleased with the turnout," she said. "This has truly been a town effort and I am delighted with the people who came out to walk today."

Sullivan Bus Lines provided a bus from the school to return parents to their parked vehicles.

Walk Initiative Launched In 1994

The walk has grown dramatically since an initial organized "walk to school" was held in Great Britain in 1994.

The Hertfordshire County Council's Travelwise team piloted the first walk; in 1995, another British group, the Pedestrian Association, organized a "walk to school." In 1996, the two groups teamed up and hosted a larger walking project, and during 1997, similar walks were held in Chicago and Los Angeles. Canada joined forces with the United States and Great Britain in 1998 and on Oct. 4, 2000, the first International Walk to School Day was held in Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, the United States, Cyprus, Gibraltar, and the Isle of Man. By 2005, 37 countries and an estimated 3 million walkers participated with the event.

This year, the full month has been dedicated to safe walking events.

The project goals are defined as encouraging physical activity, identifying safe walking strategies and safe walking or bicycling routes to schools, creating an awareness of the "walkability" of communities, generate concern about the environment, including the pollution caused by vehicle traffic, vehicle congestion at schools, and an awareness of drivers who speed when driving near schools, crime reduction, and opportunities to spend time with community members.

And The Opposite Of "Down" Is...

Sixth-grade student Tyler Shephard said that he would like to walk to school every day but his mother believes the walk from the family's Robillard Road residence is too long.

"I'd walk every day if I could," he said.

Ricky Brown, 11, said his family lives at the Alpenwald complex, which is located several miles from the school. Bicycling to school would be easy and fun, he noted, largely because the route is almost completely downhill.

"But going back home, that would be the problem," he said.

Additional information about International Walk to School is available at a www.iwalktoschool.org Internet web site.

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush@iberkshires.com or at 802-823-9367.
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