Located on the scenic North Channel of Georgian Bay, Blind River (pop. 3,500) is the smallest community to benefit from the OAST Fund. But that hasn’t prevented it from striving to make big things happens to improve the active journey to school for its students.
A collaboration between the Town of Blind River, Algoma Public Health and the local OPP detachment, the project has introduced School Travel Planning (STP) to the community including creation of a new local steering committee with representatives from the project partners as well as principals, parents and nearby Mississauga First Nation.
Data collection and initial action planning was well underway when the town’s three schools closed in March. But that hasn’t brought STP to a complete halt.
“With Covid we’ve pivoted our project to focus on measures that are laying a strong foundation for AST when schools reopen and we can engage directly with students,” says Karen Bittner, Director of Facilities and Community Services with the Town of Blind River.
Those measures have included painting new pedestrian crosswalks, repairing fencing and sidewalks in a school bus drop-off area, and preparing to deploy Blind River’s first portable speed display sign. The project partners have also reallocated part of their OAST Fund grant to deliver another first: bike repair stations that have been installed at three locations in town. Each site was chosen to ensure easy access by students and to promote future AST growth.
“We’ve appreciated the flexibility OAST has shown in letting us adjust our plans to fit very unexpected circumstances,” adds Bittner.
The initiatives in Blind River are one of 28 community-based projects receiving support from the Ontario Active School Travel Fund.