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School-library trail planned

 


Haines Borough school board members and borough officials envision maintaining a winter walking trail between the Haines School and public library, in the absence of a connected sidewalk between the two facilities.

Previous to reconstruction of the Haines School in 2007, the elementary school and library were separated by less than one block.

School and borough officials worked to extend a new sidewalk from the school entrance to Third Avenue and Old Haines Highway, but current construction work won’t include connecting the sidewalk from that corner to sidewalk in front of the library, a block away.

That has led to a school board discussion of maintaining a trail between the two buildings, parallel to the high school track.

At last week’s school board meeting, board member Sara Chapell inquired about the idea, saying she was excited by the prospect. The question has been a discussion point at “major maintenance meetings” held between school and borough officials. “How’s it going to happen?” Chapell asked.

Superintendent Michael Byer said officials have looked at “where the natural flow of traffic” is between the school and library without disruption to the track. “There’s not a solid idea of where that would go and what’s involved with that,” he said.

Board chair Anne Marie Palmieri said at the board meeting that she was concerned that snow would pile up at trail access and exit points, blocking the way. Palmieri said there was a consensus during previous discussions that a designated walkway wasn’t needed.

In an interview this week, Palmieri said the discussion started with assembly member Debra Schnabel. “Debra said, ‘How do you plan to get kids to the library?’ We said, ‘Well, are you going to spend a lot of money to pour some concrete that someone can blow some snow off of?’”

Chapell said at last week’s meeting, “Some adult should be responsible to make sure there’s a path between the two buildings. I’d like to see a plan on how – especially in the winter – that’s actually going to work for children.”

Palmieri said “the discussion is how to get kids from the school to the library in winter when the snow falls and it’s dark. Really, it’s only an issue from November to March.”

In an interview this week, borough public facilities director Carlos Jimenez said there have been no firm decisions yet, but he envisioned in the upcoming year eliminating a snow berm behind the library and snowblowing a walking route parallel to an old softball backstop and about to the west end of the bleachers that straddle the track. Jimenez said he hoped the school could clear and keep open the remainder of the route.

“We typically berm up a lot of snow by the backstop. We’ll keep open one path to the track. Some people want to put up lights. We’re thinking bare bones for now. We’ll see what happens,” Jimenez said this week.

Rebecca Heaton, who has worked at the library more than 20 years, says she supports the route outlined by Jimenez, as many children already travel between buildings that way. Heaton said a connected sidewalk between the library and Old Haines Highway would make the Mountain Market parking lot “tight and weird.” She said she thought it would lead to – rather than prevent – accidents.

“You can’t tell the kids to take the highway (sidewalks). They’re going to cut across that field. If you want to encourage kids to walk the (track-side) route, you snow-throw that path clear across. To me, that makes sense,” Heaton said.