A sea of people flowed onto Madison Avenue Wednesday morning as parents and their children participated in National Walk to School Day. Schools throughout the county participated in the annual event  that began in 1997 and has since expanded to include biking to school as well. The event promotes the need for walkable communities.
A sea of people flowed onto Madison Avenue Wednesday morning as parents and their children participated in National Walk to School Day. Schools throughout the county participated in the annual event that began in 1997 and has since expanded to include biking to school as well. The event promotes the need for walkable communities.

MADISON — Second-grader Zoey Payne couldn’t wait for Walk to School Day.

She made sure her mother Kelly Payne arrived at Stonegate subdivision Wednesday before the sun rose or the host of other students who planned to walk with Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler to the Madison Avenue elementary campuses arrived. 

“She would do this every day if she could,” said her mom Kelly Payne, after getting out the stroller for 10-month-old Paizley Beth to enjoy the walk down Madison Avenue. 

 




On National Walk to School Day Wednesday, Madison Avenue Elementary and Madison Avenue Upper Elementary students joined the throngs of students from more than 2,700 schools across the country to walk and bike to class. Some like the Paynes who live too far away from campus drove their cars to join the walk at Stonegate with the mayor or to Trace Vineyard subdivision to join Alderman Pat Peeler on the walk.

“I think this is the biggest crowd yet,” Hawkins Butler said as the students, moms, dads, grandparents and even  family pets got ready to start walking down city sidewalks. “We’re going to have a good day.”

The mayor introduced the students to Penni Tharp Davis whose mother, the late Nell Tharp, encouraged the city to participate to Walk to School Day 14 years ago. “Penni’s mother had a heart for this event.”

Three years ago, the city erected a plaque at the entrance to Stonegate honoring Nell Tharp’s commitment to the annual walk. “It’s wonderful to see everyone come out for this,” Davis said. “My mother would have loved to see all these children come out and sit by her marker.”

At 7 a.m. the group started walking, and quickly the faster walkers stretched out a lead. Taking their time on the stroll, kindergarten classmates Cora Robertson and Braylin Turnquest held hands as their fathers walked along with them. “I like walking to school with my friend,” said Braylin, as Cora agreed.

In 2007, Madison received a $564,000 federal grant that led to the sidewalks, multi-use trails and traffic calming devices along the way to the Madison Avenue campuses and bike racks that students use there.

Madison is preparing to continue the Safe Routes to School multi-use trail northward, allowing students living in Cross Creek and Hoy Farms subdivisions to walk and bike safely to campus.  The work will be part of the widening project planned for Hoy Road. 

The 10-foot wide path will be built on the west side of Rice Road and continue on Tisdale Road to the entrance of Cross Creek. Painted crosswalks and pedestrian push buttons for the traffic signal at the Rice and Hoy road intersection will be part of the project. The city has a $475,000 Transportation Alternatives Program grant for the walking path and signal buttons.

“With the planned construction of additional sidewalks from Cross Creek subdivision to Madison Avenue, the city will be providing even more students with a safe walking and biking route,” Butler said. “Madison has made walking and biking to school safer, easier and more enjoyable due to our Safe Routes to School program.”

The multi-use trail system is an integral part of Madison’s pedestrian and bicycle plan. The plans will eventually serve the entire city by providing multi-use trails and sidewalks to connect schools, the library, neighborhoods and commercial districts.