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Step in the right direction

A group of students from Eagle Point High School who spent 120 hours last school year pinpointing safety gaps along White City pedestrian school routes and reported their findings to the Jackson County Board of Commissioners last April has seen some fruit from its labor.

Last summer, the county corrected 35 of more than 100 identified potential safety hazards children face while walking to White Mountain Middle School, Mountain View Elementary School and White City Elementary School, all part of the Eagle Point School District.

"We actually accomplished something," said Alison Dodenhoff, an Eagle Point High School student.

Among the changes, crews painted five crosswalks on streets leading to White Mountain school, including Avenue G at Wilson Way, the 3600 block of Avenue G at the Aloha Sun Mobile Estates and 26th Street at Avenue G.

"When I was going to White Mountain Middle School, my mom didn't want me to walk because she didn't believe it was safe," said Courtney Phariss, an Eagle point High School student. "She was a crossing guard and was constantly yelling at drivers to slow down. Even when kids are there, cars don't seem to slow down until they see signs."

Crews also pruned shrubbery and removed other obstacles blocking drivers' view of 29 street warning signs.

About 80 percent of middle school pupils walk to White Mountain school, said Principal Lynn Eccleston.

"I think it's safer for people now coming to and from school," said Lacey Hulla, Eagle Point High School student.

Only one crosswalk the students requested — Ingalls Drive at Hale Way — was not installed.

"Ingalls is a minor street stopping at Hale," said Mike Kuntz, interim county engineer. "While we recognize it's on the route, it's far enough away from the school that it doesn't warrant a crosswalk."

The some 65 other changes students recommended involved primarily lowering speed limits and adding signs to existing streets.

Speed limits are governed by state law, which is designed to prevent cities from setting up speed traps for motorists. The county has avoided posting speed limit signs in some areas around schools because the speed limit under state guidelines is 45 or 55 mph, Kuntz said. By not posting the speed limit, county officials hope motorists who see the school will slow down, he said.

This school year, Dodenhoff, Phariss, Hulla, Dakotah Delange and Missy Rhodes will research safety gaps on school pedestrian routes in a 1-mile radius around Little Butte School.

They expect to present their findings on that study to county commissioners before the close of the school year.

"This a great opportunity for kids to help the community and show others how to get involved in making change," said Ed Pariani, of White City Youth Against Drugs.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or pachen@mailtribune.com.

Courtney Phariss uses one of the crosswalks at White Mountain Middle School. She is one of a group of Eagle Point High School students last year who reported to the country commissioners on problems in pedestrian areas around White City. New crosswalks was one improvement made by the county as a result of their report. Jim Craven 12/20/2007 - Jim Craven