Falmouth, Maine: Walking Wednesday Events

Introduction

Falmouth, ME, is a suburban town with a low population density, no town center and limited infrastructure for walking to school. In this town, the majority of students ride the bus to school. The elementary school complex in Falmouth is home to two schools — the Lunt School, which serves kindergarten through second grade, and the Plummer Motz School, which serves the third and fourth grade.

Activities

Children participating in Walk to School Day.In summer 2005, the Maine Department of Transportation (Maine DOT), through the Bicycle/Pedestrian Program, constructed a 0.6 mile long sidewalk that connects the library in the elementary school complex to a shopping center located next to a community park. The completed sidewalk is important for Walking Wednesday events, which are held for six weeks at the beginning and end of each school year. For the Walking Wednesday events, parents and students meet at the community park and then walk to the school complex. The kick-off days are successful, with 50 to 150 students participating. However, as the weeks progress, participation decreases, with the exception of the last 2007 session.

Activities to encourage children to participate in the Walking Wednesdays include posting pictures of the participants in the school’s hallway and gymnasium, stamping the hands of participating students and hanging footprints with the children’s names on them along the gym wall. The kick-off day for the Walking Wednesday event in spring 2007 expanded to car and bus riders. Rather than taking the children to the school, all of the buses dropped off the children at the shopping center, where they joined school staff and volunteer parents to walk to school. Just as in previous years, a law enforcement officer attended the first Walking Wednesday event to discuss pedestrian safety with the children before they walk to school. Another law enforcement officer was positioned at the crosswalk of a busy intersection to stop motor vehicles as the children crossed the street. For six weeks after the first Walking Wednesday, there are optional Walking Wednesdays for the students. At these optional Walking Wednesdays, the elementary schools have had almost 100 children and their parents walk from a designated location to the school, for a total distance of 0.6 miles. To help the families cross the street, crossing guards direct traffic at the intersections.

On International Walk to School Day in October 2007, Falmouth Middle School held its first walking event. Because of unsafe walking conditions near the middle school, school buses dropped off the participating students and staff at the school track, and they walked for 15 to 20 minutes until the school bell rang.

Milestones

The 2007 Walking Wednesday kick-off event was very successful and attracted more than 600 children. Most of the children walked to school, but some arrived in a unique way — by unicycle or scooter. The Walking Wednesday events following the kick-off day also experienced larger turnouts than previous years’ events. Lunt and Plummer Motz applied and received funding from the Maine DOT. The funds will provide new signage and crosswalks at both Lunt and Plummer Motz. Currently, town officials are deciding on the sign models and other installation preparation. Because Lunt and Plummer Motz might move, officials are deciding when and how to begin these installations.

Contact

Tracy Teare
1 Woods Rd.
Falmouth, ME 04105
Phone: (207) 781-2979
Email: tteare@maine.rr.com