As soon as Pueblo Gardens Elementary students turn right onto East Menor Stravenue from South Amigo Avenue, a colorful adventure now awaits them.
To their right, a detailed and story-filled mural largely covers a 6-foot wall, and a row of painted rocks lines the sidewalk.
When they arrive at the crosswalk, a multi-colored snake winds its way across the now-vibrant canvas, eventually leading students west to a view of a massive painted heart surrounded by clouds in the middle of the Wilson Avenue-Menor intersection.
One parent, mistakenly thinking that neither the Road Runner nor anyone else was watching, whimsically followed the path of the snake Tuesday morning all the way to its tail, just like the school’s young students had done minutes before.
“It makes walking fun,” said Josie Moreno, a longtime neighborhood resident who has five children at the school.
“It’s more beautiful,” said parent Juana Rios, who had just walked her two children to the school .
But it also makes drivers more aware that they are in a high-pedestrian area, which makes students safer.
The school’s principal, Seth Alshire, said upwards of 60 percent of students ride bikes or walk to school, one of the higher rates in the Tucson area.
“It creates space upon which our students can enjoy the lost art of (being) pedestrians,” he said of the project.
The makeover of the walk to school was funded with a $20,000 grant recently awarded to the Living Streets Alliance by a national nonprofit, Kaboom.
Much of the work was done by students, parents and school staff two weekends ago. Vanessa Cascio, the alliance’s safe routes to school coordinator, said, “It’s not a ton of money when you think of the planning involved.”
Kaboom’s Play Everywhere Challenge gave out $1 million to 50 projects across the country this year, including Pueblo Gardens, to help bring “play to everyday spaces, making it easy and available for kids and families.”
Beyond the street painting, the school and alliance plan on adding toy instruments and play structures “to make that space more inviting and playful.”
“The premise is, ‘Why don’t we create play where places where kids are already frequenting?’” Cascio said of the program. “This seems like a very obvious place.”
Before the modifications, Moreno said the last leg of the walk to school could get unsightly , with trash and broken bottles sometimes littering the way, adding: “Sometimes the kids couldn’t even walk on the sidewalk because of it.”
With the changes, Moreno said she and her children are much more inclined to walk to school together.
Alshire agreed that it had been “a very neglected piece of the neighborhood,” but not anymore.
“I guess the best thing I can say, it’s really an act of community love,” he added.
If you’d like to see something similar at your child’s school or in your neighborhood, feel free to contact the alliance at email@example.com or 261-8777.
DOWN THE ROAD
The intersection of East Fifth Street and North Rosemont Boulevard will be a little slower going Monday, Nov. 21, as crews hired by the city work to repave the crossing.
They will be working from 6 a.m. through 6 p.m.
Tucson Police Department officers will be on hand to direct traffic, which will be restricted to one lane of travel in each direction.
The rest of the Rosemont project is expected to be completed by late December.