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Athol completes first city sidewalk | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey


ATHOL — Athol has its very first sidewalk.

City leaders, community members, sheriff’s deputies, children and parents celebrated the new walkway Thursday with a ribbon-cutting.

The sidewalk gives children a safe path to school and residents a walkway toward the library and city hall. The goal is to eventually connect more roads through the city.

Some residents of the northern Kootenai County town, with an estimated population of 736 in 2021, had mixed feelings about the sidewalk before it was installed.

“Change is scary, but once they got it in, the people loved it,” Public Works Director Kevin Foster said.

During planning, some people said, if Athol has sidewalks, it will be a big city, and the appeal of Athol is its rural feel, said City Council member Jeanette Ziegler.

But the people are already here, Ziegler said. The city is growing and the sidewalks make it a safer place for kids.

The completion of the sidewalk was a long time coming for Athol.

Foster and other city staff members began working on the project in 2018. The main funding source is a child safety grant the city received after several applications for it were denied. A water tower project took priority for a while, and once the grant was awarded to the city, COVID-19 hit along with spikes in construction costs.

And then there were challenges in completing it. The deadline was fast approaching to use the grant money when the city started construction around September 2022, but then an early winter delayed completion, forcing city staff to request an extension on the grant’s deadlines, which were approved.

The sidewalk starts at Athol Elementary along Menser Avenue and heads west to Third Street. There are two other sidewalks that go north to Highway 54 along Third Street and Davis Lane, where new crosswalks with strobing pedestrian lights were installed, improving safety while kids cross the main route through town.

City Clerk Lori Yarbrough said this will hopefully be just the start of sidewalk projects.

City staff plans to apply for more child safety grants to continue and connect the sidewalk, especially now that people can see it and stand on it.

Yarbrough picks her own children up from the elementary school, so she’s directly impacted as a parent by the new sidewalk.

“For government work, nothing happens immediately in everything that we do,” Yarbrough said. “The process is long, so it’s rewarding to see it. It’s rewarding to get to see the community walk up and down the street. We’ve been working on this for so long, so it’s really great to see it done.”

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