Zoe Kircos, Grants Manager
A cold, wet day didn’t prevent the Friends of Granger Paths from celebrating their grant award.
It’s that time of year. The sunrise is just a few minutes later, the evening is just a few degrees cooler, and while Back-to-School Sales seemed to start a few weeks earlier, kids are now well and truly heading back to the classroom.
In Granger, Indiana, a town converted from farmland to subdivisions less than 30 ago, it used to be that heading to school meant getting in the car or on the school bus. Kids never rode their bikes or walked to school because it wasn’t safe to do so. In fact, the school district specifically prohibited walking or bicycling to school (and they still do — but more on that later) because of safety issues.
That started to change when local resident Barbara Fredman took a trip to the library. ?It was this beautiful new library,? Fredman told me, ?because out here we really invest in libraries. But I was absolutely astonished to see that there were no sidewalks around it. None. You could not get to that library without getting in your car. So I went to the next public meeting to ask why you couldn?t walk to the library. There were 15 people at that meeting. And 11 of us had the same question.?
Granger wasn’t really interested in putting in biking and walking paths — many swore no one would use them. One county official even told Fredman that county funds would only be used for roads. But that didn’t stop her. ?I think people definitely had the sense that something important was missing,? she said. ?People felt subdivision-bound, like they couldn?t go anywhere without getting in their cars. Some parents wouldn?t even let their kids ride their bikes in the subdivision because we have no sidewalks and people drive too fast.?
Kids and parents try out the new path.
Friends of Granger Paths (FOTP) was formed and they quickly developed plans for a network of connecting off-road paths. The first would connect two elementary schools, the library, and a shopping area to several residential areas. The hard work of fundraising began. Our $10,000 grant to the group in 2011 was a big boost. ?The fact that we got a grant from this national organization, that really gave us credibility,? said Fredman. ?It made a difference.?
A few weeks ago, Phase 1A of the Adams Road Path opened to foot and bicycle traffic, just in time for the new school year. And it is pretty busy with people of all ages walking and biking to school, to shopping, even, as hoped, to the library. FOTP has scheduled a meeting with the school district to discuss changing the prohibition on walking and biking to school, although many acknowledge the need for raising awareness among the bus and car drivers. Even a few naysayers have changed their tune and acknowledged that the path is a good thing for the community. The county is looking at other places to incorporate multi-use paths. A few new residents have said they chose their homes based on proximity to the path.
I asked Granger resident Laura Baker, who rides with her son to school most mornings, why she chooses to bike when she could put her son on the school bus just yards from their front door. ?I want to instill the organic experience of exercise,? she told me. ?That it’s not something separate from daily life, it’s part of how you live. I?m hoping it becomes part of who he is.?
It’s that time of year all right. Time to get on a bike.
The Adams Road Path opened a few weeks ago, allowing residents of Granger to have a safe place to walk and bike through the neighborhood.