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Residents Pursue Grants to Create Walking and Biking Programs

Local health initiative Healthy Central Florida is putting up 25 thousand dollars in grant money to encourage cycling and walking in Winter Park, Eatonville and Maitland. It's hoped the grants will inspire more programs like a successful walk to school initiative at a Maitland Elementary school.

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[Photo: Walkability expert Mark Fenton walks with Dommerich Elementary students]

A tiny army of Dommerich Elementary students walked to school  on national bike- walk to school day Wednesday with  walkability expert Mark Fenton as part of an audit of their  path to school.  Five years ago, three Dommerich moms launched Walk-n-Roll, a monthly program to encourage kids to get more exercise by walking or biking to school.  The moms pursued grants and worked with city and school officials to improve sidewalks and make the route safer.  Elise Breath says her five-year old participates in the organized walks, but doesn’t walk or bike on regular days.

“The children are safe, they’re with a group of children and parents, I just worry about him losing a little control and going out into the street, the sidewalk is too close to the street in my opinion,” said Elise Breath. 

 That complaint is the kind of thing that knocks down how well an area rates for walkability. But Fenton said for the most part, the streets surrounding Dommerich and Maitland  Middle school are impressive.

 “This route had contiguous sidewalks the whole way, they were in pretty good repair, there were crossing guards at the one really busy roadway that we crossed, there were some traffic calming features as we approached the school, there were islands in the road that tended to slow traffic, there were wider sidewalks,” said Fenton.

Healthy Central Florida, along with Florida Hospital, is now helping other like-minded residents  launch  walk/bike projects. Step one was a workshop with Mark Fenton to help guide people interested in pursuing the grants. It booked to capacity in just a couple of days, drawing over 100 participants. Up to 10 will receive grants to help improve the walkability or bikeability of their Maitland, Winter Park or Eatonville neighborhoods. 


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