MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. — City and Baldwin County School District officials gathered Wednesday morning near Creekside Elementary School for the ceremonial opening of the newly completed sidewalk network and pedestrian bridge along Blandy Road.
The opening was also done in conjunction with Georgia Walk to School Day where students across the state are encouraged to walk or ride their bicycles to school in order to promote more physical activity among the state's youth. A group of students and administrators from Oak Hill Middle School made the trek from their building around the school system's campus and were the first large group to cross the bridge.
The sidewalk/bridge project cost $1 million according to Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) Communications Specialist Kyle B. Collins, and the bridge measures approximately 180 feet. The project is part of the GDOT's Safe Routes to School initiative that promotes pedestrian and bicycle safety for kids traveling to school. Gregory Bridge Company was contracted to build the bridge.
Baldwin County School Superintendent Dr. Noris Price, City of Milledgeville Mayor Gary Thrower, and Live Healthy Baldwin Director Dr. Jim Lidstone each addressed those in attendance at the ceremony.
"Georgia Walk to School Day continues to be a flagship spring event for Safe Routes to Schools," Price said. "Oak Hill Middle School — you participated in this event today by walking around our campus. I hope that you got some really good exercise. We are celebrating today the completion of this beautiful bridge as well as all the sidewalks that we have throughout our campus. It is this kind of project that makes the education that we provide to our students an even better education because it allows us to bring in the outside world into our school. We are incredibly excited about the impact that this project will have on our campus here in Baldwin County and on the greater community."
The pedestrian project took almost one year to complete and is part of a long-term plan to provide the community members with safe routes to walk and bike all around the city.
"The city is currently transforming our long-range plans by instituting policies and infrastructure changes to support walking, biking, and access to open spaces," Thrower said. "We're extremely proud of the progress today with our Fishing Creek Community Trail and continue to move forward with expansion plans from the Oconee Greenway through this school district and on to the recreation department. This is all in an effort to enhance connectivity as well as promoting an active lifestyle throughout our community."
Lidstone said he took part in writing the grant for the project seven years ago, and gave more detail on the additional projects to connect Milledgeville through walkways and bike paths. He said the grant was for $500,000 and the fact that the GDOT continued with the project was a testament to its importance.
"As the mayor said, this is a piece of the puzzle," Lidstone said. "To prevent obesity we need to focus on physical activity… This particular project here on the Baldwin County school campus is just a piece of the puzzle of creating a 14-mile trail network that connects all kinds of different places in the community so we can get there using our legs, using our feet, and not having to drive everywhere. If we can get to different places using what we call active transportation, we're going to be healthy. This is an awesome day, and we look forward to seeing trails continuing out across those farm fields, going to the industrial park, around the recreational complex, and eventually down to the greenway. When we can connect the schools to neighborhoods then we've got a way for kids to get to school other than having to be bused or driven there."
According to Collins the sidewalk tracks from Blandy Hills to Creekside via crosswalk then goes along Blandy Road before turning along South ABC Street, Stadium Drive, up North ABC Street, and ends at the existing sidewalk at Eagle Ridge.