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Enhancing rural transportation

TRIPP/BURKE -- Rural towns were made for walking. They were also made for biking and safe travel, and two south central South Dakota communities are getting a boost to provide transportation options to residents. Burke and Tripp were recently sel...

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TRIPP/BURKE - Rural towns were made for walking.

They were also made for biking and safe travel, and two south central South Dakota communities are getting a boost to provide transportation options to residents.

Burke and Tripp were recently selected as the two communities to participate in a partnership with South Dakota State University and the South Dakota Department of Health, focused on assessing community active transportation needs and creating a plan to implement new options.

And both towns hope making an effort to improve will increase quality of life for community members and possibly even draw in new residents.

"I'm just really proud of our community," said Gregory County Commissioner and Burke Business Promotion Corporation member Kelsea Sutton. "We had a lot of elected officials, business owners, community groups and nonprofit leaders sign on and say they were supportive of our community participating, and I think that really shows a progressive attitude from the community about active transportation, physical wellness and economic development."

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Students in SDSU's Landscape Architect class, in conjunction with town and DOH officials, will spend several months conducting assessments of both Tripp and Burke to identify what active transportation needs exist. They will then assist each town with developing ways to implement solutions to those needs.

According to the DOH, active transportation is the "integration of physical activity into daily routines such as walking or biking to destinations like work, school, grocery stores or parks."

Though she's not sure exactly what to expect when the program is complete, Sutton said she anticipates plans to implement amenities such as sidewalks, crosswalks, walking paths and signage.

"As a community, we've been laying the groundwork for this for a while," Sutton said. "We identified resources we'd like to pursue and now we're getting the chance to pursue them. This will really help the community visualize how our goals could be implemented."

Since the program began in 2013, six other communities have participated - Crooks, Mitchell, Volga, Salem, Fort Pierre and Crooks.

Tripp Mayor Victor Olson has examined each of those towns' reports and outcomes from the project. While most have appeared successful and he's excited to be part of the process, Olson said he's cautiously optimistic.

"Tripp is going through a really hard time right now," Olson said, adding that implementing ideas from the assessment would cost the city money. "From the city's perspective, our concentration is on the necessities."

In the past month, both the Tripp Good Samaritan Center and CashSmart grocery store have announced impending closures, which puts Tripp in a difficult position, Olson said.

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"We're worthy of a study, but the concern is the implementation of the results of those studies," he said. "The types of things that come out of these studies are great to have, but they all cost money, and, like I said, our focus right now has to be on the necessities."

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