The Fairfield Local School District has received a nearly $300,000 grant to make safety improvements to a pedestrian and bicycle path to the school complex that it hopes to have completed by next summer, Superintendent Tim Dettwiller said Tuesday.
The $293,000 grant comes from the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) Safe Routes to School program.
Dettwiller said the grant will cover the entire cost of the project, even though the school district originally thought it might have to contribute $25,000 or more to the project.
“We’re really excited about that. That was like manna from heaven,” Dettwiller said.
The Safe Routes to School program aims to encourage and enable students to walk or bike to school along safe pathways. Funding is available to school districts through a competitive grants process, Dettwiller said in a news release.
The project will connect the school to its athletic complex and an existing sidewalk along SR 771 that leads into the village of Leesburg. The new multi-use path will run along the school property from the high school parking lot, around the outside edge of the baseball fields, and to the track and athletic complex. A portion of the path will also branch off and cross SR 771 via a marked crosswalk in order to complete the sidewalk network, the news release said.
“The award of these funds provides an incredible opportunity for the school to further connect with our community. Our hope is to see children and adults on the new route walking and riding bikes safely to and from the village to the school complex,” Dettwiller said. “This grant would not have been secured without the relentless efforts of Dr. Corey Cockerill and Dr. Rindy Matthews and the rest of the Safe Routes Committee.”
A Fairfield Safe Routes Committee made up of local stakeholders was organized in 2017 to develop a district School Travel Plan. Using results from a publicly-distributed parent survey and before- and after-school walk audits completed in 2018, the committee made both infrastructure and non-infrastructure recommendations to the school board.
The final plan, filed and recorded with ODOT in 2019, primarily emphasized the need to address parent concerns about the lack of safe pathways and crossings on the school property.
“We are a very active community, and one that is highly involved in school events,” said Cockerill, the Safe Routes Committee chair. “It has been the committee’s goal to better connect the village to the school complex in a safe way with proper crossings.”
Dettwiller said that while there are still the bidding process and other details to work through, the path is expected to be ready for use by next summer.
According to the ODOT Transportation Information Mapping System, the average daily traffic count along SR 771 in front of the school complex is between 1,020 and 1,436.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522.