After six years, Girl Scouts’ plan begins construction
Kimberly LaSalle and Miel Schaefer were in the second grade when they first started working toward a crosswalk being built across Brooks Road, near Hiram Lewis Park and Windsor Middle School, just east of the skate park. They are now eighth graders attending Windsor Middle School, and at long last construction has begun on the crosswalk they envisioned as part of a Brownie project so long ago.
“In the second grade, we did a Brownie Quest, which is to take action to better your community,” said LaSalle, 14. “We wrote a letter to the town council suggesting a crosswalk here.”
“I come to this park a lot and every time I came I had to sprint across the street because cars were coming,” added Schaefer, 13.
The girls got a letter back from town civil engineer Alejandro Perez, letting them know the town was going to consider the proposal, but after nearly two years of no action, the girls got back to work.
“In fourth grade we started up again, a lot of emails back and forth, asking ‘is it yes or no,’” said LaSalle. “I did a lot of research and stuff and talked to the civil engineers at (the) town of Windsor, and we got hooked up with Mona.”
Mona Ibrahim is also a civil engineer for the town of Windsor and became part of a separate project the girls did on profiling women who are working in male-dominated fields. She ultimately helped guide the girls through the process of getting civic action taken.
One of the things they learned, is that there is a guideline stating that a crosswalk should be placed in a straight away, with 100 yards of visibility for approaching cars, so they worked on doing an analysis of the curve in the road, and gathered data on other crosswalks that did not abide by that guideline in the town of Windsor.
Other work that the girls did included doing counts of jaywalkers running across Brooks Road at the beginning and end of the school day.
“It was a lot,” LaSalle said with a laugh. “I had to get permission to come to school late because I was counting people.”
Schaefer used Google Maps and a lot of tape to create a satellite image to demonstrate the large number of houses and neighborhoods located too far away from the existing crosswalk at Foothill.
“We needed to show how many people could benefit from the crosswalk,” she said.
The girls also went before the town council, making a speech together during public comment about the need for the crosswalk. One of the things they pointed out was that there were already two projects for crosswalks in the works at the town, the Windsor Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan and the Windsor Safe Routes to School Plan. The girls lobbied, with the backing of Perez and Ibrahim, for the Brooks Road crosswalk to be made a priority and moved up a year in the town’s plan.
In April 2018, the girls received word that the town applied for a grant to construct the crosswalk. They were told that the if the grant didn’t come through, they would apply for a budget amendment in July, at the beginning of the 2018-19 fiscal year.
Construction finally began in February 2020. The crosswalk will include yield marking, pedestrian ramps, a street light, pedestrian activated flashing lights and a refuge island in the middle of the street.
The slow pace of civic projects proved both an important learning experience and source of frustration for the girls.
“I’ve been working on this for literally half of my life,” LaSalle said. “It seems like it should be easy to do, but it’s not.”
“Yeah, at one point I thought about just going down to Walmart, buying a bucket of yellow paint and doing it myself,” agreed Schaefer.
Cheryl LaSalle, Kimberly’s mother, said she asked Perez and Ibrahim about the impact the girls’ advocacy had on the project and she said she was told in an email it was “A good deal of influence. Every time we discussed it we would bring up the girls. Also, our director kept wanting to mention the troop in the agenda reports and keep them in mind when we were in front of the council members.”
Both girls are now in the eigth grade at Windsor Middle School, and hope that the project will be done in time for them to use it. LaSalle in particular needs easy access away from the middle school because she teaches piano lessons after school. Schaefer is looking forward to safe, easy access to the park and school from her home.
“I’m just glad it’s finally going to happen,” concluded LaSalle.