COQUILLE — A safe walking path will soon connect Coquille High School and the new Winter Lakes High School.

The path is being paid for by the Safe Routes to School grant for $1.5 million.

“It’s going to extend the sidewalk,” said Tim Sweeney, Coquille School District superintendent. “Central (Boulevard) is one of the busiest roads in town and there are no sidewalks from CHS, so we have a whole neighborhood without a safe path to the high school or Winter Lakes.”

A couple years before Sweeney joined the administration team at the district, there weren’t any sidewalks that led to the high school.

“A young gal was hit by a car and killed outside the high school campus,” Sweeney said. “That was one of the things that put a sidewalk up to CHS to keep our students safe. Our first reaction to the student being killed was making it so every student is bussed because there just wasn’t a safe path.”

To get this Safe Routes to School grant, the district worked alongside Coos County Public Works Director John Rowe, who Sweeney said did most of the heavy lifting to make this happen.

In fact, the new path crosses over county property. Because of this, the county is paying the matching grant for $340,000, though it got a grant to help pay for even that portion.

“The sidewalk is going on the south side of West Central from the high school parking lot to the new school,” Rowe said as he described the project. “Retaining walls will also go in to hold the slope up.”

The bicycle lane on West Central will also be restriped so pedestrians can have a place to walk.

“Besides the walkway and the school, there are ditches and unprotected slopes and a lot of pedestrians that make a loop around Coquille in that area,” Rowe said.

The path is expected to be completed in September of 2020.

In addition, the district is working with the county to put in a cross walk that leads to the softball field. This would give softball players a safe path from the high school.

“We’ve been taking the Safe Routes to School seriously,” Sweeney said. “We’re excited for school to start and can’t wait for kids to come in through the door.”

Reporter Jillian Ward can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 235, or by email at jillian.ward@theworldlink.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JE_Wardwriter.