PITTSBURG — The City of Pittsburg and Pittsburg Community Schools celebrated the new and improved walking trails on Tuesday.
The sidewalks were made possible through the Safe Routes to School program which encourages active transportation, such as walking or riding bikes, particularly to school.
The Safe Routes to School project began in June which resulted in a six-foot walkway along Homer Street from Centennial Drive to George Nettels, a 10-foot trail along Broadway Street in front of the middle school, and two 10-foot trails connecting the Watco Trail to Westside Elementary. The City of Pittsburg also repaired a portion of sidewalk south of Westside along North Miles, a release said.
The trails connect to existing trail systems, Pitsco Sunflower Trail, Watco Trail and the nearly finished South Rouse hiking and biking trail.
Director of Public Works Cameron Alden said the project is a culmination of the hours and efforts of multiple partnerships within the community — including Kansas Department of Transportation, city staff and commissioners, the Active Transportation Advisory Board, Greenbush Education Service Center and many more.
The process for the project started in 2014 and the grant was initially applied for in 2015. A grant for $187,183 from the Kansas Department of Transportation Safe Routes to School program and $53,000 in matching funds from the City of Pittsburg helped make the project possible, a release said.
It all began as part of a survey to look at what businesses want in a community, what makes a community “desirable,” City of Pittsburg Commissioner Patrick O’Bryan said.
Sidewalks and walking trails were part of that, the commissioner said.
“It gave us the direction we needed to go as the City improves their desirability, — shopping and recreational opportunities — the safe routes to school is one of those issues,” O’Bryan said.  
O’Bryan said childhood obesity was also another reason the project was considered.
“This is a great way to teach them [children] how much enjoyment there is in being outside and being active by actually walking to school and enjoying being outside,” he said.
Pittsburg Community Schools Superintendent Rich Proffitt said the district appreciates the partnerships that made the routes happen.
“As everyone knows, the school system we are in the business of trying to educate young minds,” he said. “But our first priority is actually the safety of our students and their families.
“There is a lot of times people think safety and security actually begins and ends at our doorway but it doesn't, it starts when the students leave their doors and go back and rejoin their families at the end of every day.”
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.