Working to help get students safely to school, the city of Sherman is looking to partner with the Texas Department of Transportation to make trail improvement to Henry W. Sory Elementary. A resolution of support for a $1.2 million grant was approved by the City Council Monday.
Sherman Parks and Recreation Department is pursuing the month through TxDOT and its Safe Route to School program.
The city plans to use these funds to develop a trail system connecting the elementary school to nearby neighborhoods, including the Pebblebrook and Brookstone additions.
“The people we’ve spoken to with TxDOT say it would be a really great project, but we haven’t done this before,” Sherman Parks & Recreation Manager Theresa Hutchinson said. “We are hopeful it will be accepted.”
Earlier this spring, TxDOT announced a call for projects under its Transportation Alternatives and Safe Route to School programs. In total, the department plans to issue about $46 million in funding for projects across the state using these programs.
“The great part of this is it is 100 percent matching, so the city would not be out any money if we receive this,” she said.
The City Council previously received an update on the planned trail system in March, however Hutchinson said the second phase requires a resolution of support from the city council. TxDOT has given the go ahead for more than 350 other projects to move onto this second phase, she said.
The trail system includes a 1.7-mile path would follow the path of a water line project and cut through Herman Baker Park before following along Center Street toward the school.
In documents for Monday’s meeting, city staff said the trail would also benefit Lighthouse Early Learning Child Development School, who operate a private campus along FM 1417. Calls to the school for comment were not returned Monday.
Hutchinson said the school is limited on safe routes to the campus due to its location and proximity to significant traffic on FM 1417.
The city plans for the project to expand the project to be a full recreational amenity for the city. The 10-foot-wide path will also allow for traffic going to and from the campus and support bicycles. The city also plans to install lighting and benches along the route, but Hutchinson said it is too early in the process to talk on definitive features.
The route itself could also be extended to reach other schools. Hutchinson said original plans called for a route connecting to Sherman High School, but the TxDOT grant was specific to schools serving Kindergarten through eighth grade.
“We are hoping this would be the start of a trail that would extend beyond the school,” she said, noting that city possess all the land needed for the project.
Kimberly Simpson, Sherman Independent School District director of communication, said the district voiced its support for the project in March but will issue an official resolution in support in the near future.
“I think there is always ways to improve safe routes to and from school,” she said. “Any type of project that supports safe travel to and from school is something we are in support of.”
What do you think about the planned trail improvements? Let local government reporter Michael Hutchins know at MHutchins@HeraldDemocrat.com.