Ennis Schools and Madison Byways have teamed up to celebrate National Walk to School Day on Wednesday, Oct. 5, as local students, parents, teachers and community members will walk from Ennis Lions Club Park to the Ennis Elementary School.
The community is invited to gather starting at 7:20 a.m. at the park. The group will walk west along Main Street and up the Veteran’s Memorial steps to get to school, and crossing guards will be in place at crosswalks along the route.
The event encourages children to walk or ride a bicycle as a means of getting to school. Walking to school promotes a healthier lifestyle through an opportunity for physical activity, which has been proven control weight, improve mental health and reduce the risk of disease. In addition to providing exercise, walking to school reduces the number of vehicle trips and congestion around the school. Fewer automobiles mean less air pollutants and a healthier environment, reads a press release from Madison Byways on the event.
Currently, there is no continuous sidewalk between Lions Club Park and North Third Street. Pedestrians are often forced to maneuver around ice and snow banks, walking between parked cars and dodging traffic. In order to resolve this problem, local non-profit organization Madison Byways has submitted grant applications to the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ Recreational Trails Program to construct an asphalt pathway along this section of Main Street.
Byways board chairman Josh Vujovich breaks down the problem of limited accessibility.
“A lot of kids that live downtown and around school get driven to school because their parents are concerned that they don’t have safe access,” he said, adding “We’ve got young kids that, if they don’t have that designated spot to walk, they’re just as liable to run off in the middle of the road.”
“There is so much natural beauty in the area and so many good destinations,” Vujovich said. “It’s really too bad that we don’t have better access to it.”
This fall members of Madison Byways will be marking streets along school routes to raise awareness on the issue. The organization is also working to build a trail around the Ennis fishing access. Sponsors for the National Walk To School Day event include First Madison Valley Bank and the Safe Routes to School program.