The Bemidji School District has a large land base covering
over 800 square miles that it must provide transportation
services for. Coupled with changes in state and federal
funding for schools that have failed to generate growth
in revenue, the cost of providing transportation services
is eating a significant amount of the District’s
budget. In addition, nationwide and state trends
in student health, inactivity and obesity show that the
District has opportunities for a win-win solution to both
its transportation and student health issues by encouraging
more students to walk or bike to school.
The School District has been awarded a grant of $10,000
from the State’s Safe Routes to School program to
develop and implement an evaluation tool for assessing
the physical and perceived barriers in the community that
keep students from walking or biking to school. The
HRDC, in partnership with the City of Bemidji, is assisting
the School District with this effort. Following the
assessment phase that is being conducted this summer, a
plan for methods to remove these barriers will be developed.
As is common in so many rural communities with newer schools,
the Lake of the Woods School is located approximately a
mile west of the City of Baudette. Connections between
the school and the community are limited to Trunk Highway
11 or a County State Aid Highway about a half mile south
of the school.
In addition to serving K-12 students with classrooms,
auditoriums and athletic facilities, the school serves
as a center of activity for the entire Baudette community. Unfortunately,
its physical separation from the town limits its ability
to be fully utilized and accessible for all community members. For
example, students and residents who could easily walk or
bike to the school are forced to either use the shoulder
of TH 11 or a car for the short ride. The local track
and cross country running teams have also been forced to
use the highway shoulder for training.
Lake of the Woods County, the City of Baudette and the
School District have partnered with the HRDC to plan for
the construction of a grade separated multi-use trail from
downtown to the school. A team of local agency and
elected representatives has identified potential routes,
while project staff has met with affected property owners
to review those routes. Once the concept route and
design guidelines have been agreed to, the County can begin
the survey and design work for the trail.
This section of trail will be the third phase of trail
construction in the community. The other two phases
include a trail from the east end of town at Timber Mill
Park to Willie Walleye Park downtown, and from Willie Walleye
Park north to the International Border crossing. Phase
three as envisioned will connect downtown, through the
western areas of the City (including future growth areas),
to the school.
Construction of the trail by 2010 will be funded with
a federal Transportation Enhancement grant the County received.