The City of Aiken is working to improve pathways from schools to Crosland Park to ensure the safety of children living in that neighborhood.

Using a grant from the S.C. Department of Transportation, the City is clearing the way for those neighborhood children to safely walk to and from North Aiken Elementary, located at 100 Bears Rock Road, and Aiken Middle, located at 101 Gator Lane, according to Engineering and Utilities Director Larry Morris.

The grant is for approximately $400,000. The schools will receive $40,000, which they can use in any way to promote the safety of their students.

Morris said the final plans were turned in to SCDOT about a month ago, and the City is awaiting comments.

The plans include installing lighting and concrete pathways from the neighborhood to those schools, placing sidewalks along some of the streets and adding steps to an area that is quite steep to make the walk less hazardous for students.

“We want our kids to be safer,” Morris said. “This is really going to help.”

In October and November, two houses in Crosland Park were removed that were in the vicinity of the proposed pathway improvements. One house was located on Croft Street and the other on Aldrich Street. With the two structures gone, new sidewalks built on Aldrich and Croft can be connected to the schools, according to a memorandum.

The City purchased those homes with Northside Development Funds, not with monies to be used for the Safe Route to Schools’ project, Morris said.

“They were part of the Northside Initiative that we were able to combine with this project,” Morris said in an email. “However, they were not purchased specifically for this project. All other areas where the sidewalk will be placed is either on street right-of-way or school board property.”

Morris added that the Aldrich Street house was in “very poor shape” while the one on Croft was “approaching dilapidated condition.”

Gary Yount, president of the Crosland Park Neighborhood Association, said that residents are looking forward to the completion of this project.

“There are some pathways there now, but they will be improved,” Yount said. “Kids will have a safer walk to school.”

Morris said he hopes the work to improve the paths will start some time this upcoming spring.