Walking to and from Central Elementary School is about to get safer for children and their parents.

An 850-foot sidewalk along H Avenue between La Grande’s Central Elementary, at the corner of H and Second Street, and Sunset Drive, just below Grande Ronde Hospital, is set to be installed later this year.

“It will be great for the whole community,” said George Mendoza, superintendent of the La Grade School District, who discussed the sidewalk at a meeting of the La Grande School Board on Wednesday.

Mendoza said the need for the sidewalk is obvious when one sees the number of cars parked along H Avenue after school. The vehicles of parents picking up their children parked on H Avenue often stretch west from Central all the way to Sunset Drive. Currently, children and their parents have to walk over ground that is often wet and spongy to get to and from Central. The superintendent also noted the convenience of a five-foot-wide sidewalk will mean fewer people will be walking on H Avenue to avoid wet ground.

The sidewalk will be installed by the City of La Grande, which received federal funds for the project via a Safe Routes to School grant. School districts cannot apply for Safe Routes to School grants but municipalities, such as cities and counties, can, said City of La Grande Public Works Director Kyle Carpenter. The City of La Grande received a Safe Routes to School grant of $140,000 for the sidewalk project. The city, Carpenter said, will spend between $35,000 and $50,000 of its own money on the sidewalk project as part of a matching grant.

All of the sidewalk will be in a public right-of-way. Carpenter noted that no portion of a Safe Routes to School project, according to government regulations, can be on property that belongs to a school district.

Carpenter said work on the sidewalk will start this spring and will be finished before the start of the 2019-20 school year. He is excited to be part of the project.

See complete story in Friday's Observer