On March 18th, the Cook County Board of Commissioners prioritized the safety of children and seniors in Cook County! The Board voted to build a sidewalk in Grand Marais along County Road 7, from 5th Avenue West (the Old Gunflint Trail) to 8th Ave West (by Birchwood Apartments). This was identified as a priority missing sidewalk in 2010 by the Safe Routes to School group.
Many community members attended the meeting and shared how this sidewalk will improve the safety and walkability for people of all ages. Representatives spoke on behalf of residents of Sawtooth Ridges Apartments (senior housing) and Birchwood Apartments, the schools in Grand Marais (Great Expectations School and Sawtooth Elementary), and others in support of this sidewalk.
“It has been a priority for a long time,” said Director of GES School, Peter James, with a third of their students walking to school. Principal Gwen Carman echoed James’ remarks and added that “[o]ur students at times will do activities at the Care Center or Sawtooth Ridges, and those are very positive intergenerational activities. And if that sidewalk were there, it would be far easier to coordinate those activities because students would be able to walk there more safely rather than having to arrange for transportation.”
This area has seen an increase in traffic of all forms and has been a major safety concern. Local resident Jennifer Schulz said “there is so much traffic: cars and pedestrians,” which has created a huge safety issue. The sidewalk will create a safe connection between the Birchwood Apartments, Sawtooth Ridges, North Shore Hospital and Care Center, Sawtooth Mountain Clinic, Community Center, YMCA, and the schools (ISD 166 and Great Expectations School), connecting with the existing sidewalk along County Road 7. “When you pursue the mission of a walkable town, you want to benefit a wide spectrum of people and in that three block section of County Road 7, you have the greatest density of multi-generations that you have in any three block section in the entire County arguably,” shared Kristine Bottorff, resident of Birchwood Apartments.
The County Board, with three votes in support and one in opposition, heard and responded to the voices of the community members present and that of those that had contacted their commissioner. As Commissioner Jan Hall summarized: “…listening to these people today and facing the fact that we could have a child hurt at that corner. And that corner, if you just sit there for one hour, is really, really a dangerous traffic area. I just feel that it is something that we need to do as people of Cook County and being a Commissioner that’s my job to work for the people that live here. So I would like to move forward on [this] project.”
We’d like to commend the more than 25 people and organizations who made a comment or showed up, as well as the Commissioners who supported this important sidewalk project for the children and elders of our community! Take the time today and thank your commissioner for being responsive to the community’s needs.