SAN LUCAS — Children in San Lucas can now safely walk to school following the construction of new sidewalks and freshly paved streets in the South Monterey County town.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony and resource fair took place Oct. 26 at San Lucas Union School to celebrate the completion of the Monterey County Public Works improvement project, which created sidewalks and paved streets in the rural community for the first time in 50 years, according to Monterey County District 3 Supervisor Chris Lopez.
“To the kids of San Lucas, thank you for the inspiration,” Lopez said afterward on social media. “Today they ribbon cut their project. Sidewalks and new streets, for the first time in fifty years. It was amazing to see it completed and to spend time with community celebrating.”
The $2 million project installed sidewalks, curbs, ADA-compliant pedestrian ramps, driveway approaches, drainage swales and pavement rehabilitation along several streets, primarily San Benito and Main streets, within San Lucas, an unincorporated area of Monterey County located about 10 miles south of King City.
The multimillion-dollar investment from the county, which funded the project through the Community Development Block Grant Program, is a huge milestone for the town with a population of around 400.
Lopez recalled talking with a local mother about the improvements at last month’s celebration.
“She shared that she was in her 30s. She went to school here, and she had never seen so much investment in and care for her community,” he said. “The words have stuck with me. Her gratitude will help carry me through any tough times.”
Students campaign for change
San Lucas students were the driving force behind the improvements, as they saw the need in their community. With the help of teacher Tom Carvey, letters written by sixth, seventh and eighth graders were sent to Lopez, their local elected official, expressing the need for safe routes to school.
One such letter stated, “My dream community would be for San Lucas to have sidewalks, so then we can be safe instead of walking on the road.”
Their collective voice and dedication led to advocacy — and the county listened.
Funding for the project was approved in April 2021, and a groundbreaking ceremony was held this past June with three of the original letter writers — who are now in high school — along with current and future San Lucas students in attendance.
“Everyone in the town was very pleased, and none more so than myself and Mr. Carvey because we recognized that this was the result of our students writing letters, learning about civics and focusing on how to foster positive change in their own community to make their living experience better,” said Jessica Riley, superintendent and principal of San Lucas Union School District.
Safe routes for all
Getting to and from school was a challenge for many San Lucas students, who had to walk along rough roadways while being on high alert for oncoming traffic. Now, those days are gone.
“Prior to the installation of these sidewalks, our students were walking on the road, holding hands — you never knew when a fast car might come around the corner,” Riley said. “Now they are on sidewalks and always safe.”
For San Lucas School’s younger students, the new sidewalks are essential for their weekly trips to the San Lucas Library, located about two blocks away.
“It’s cool having sidewalks, so you don’t have to walk on the road,” said third-grader Jazmyn Vidal-Lopez. “When people are driving fast, we can stay safe on the sidewalk.”
The new paved streets are also safer for after-school activities, like biking and skating.
“I ride scooters,” said Christian Morales, a second grader. “It’s fun to ride on the new road. It’s nice and smooth. No more bumps that make me fall.”
During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Riley shared a quote by Margaret Mead, an American cultural anthropologist: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
“What I feel this quote means for our students here at this school is that you and I are here today because we are privileged enough to witness our small group of young citizens growing up and seeing an opportunity to facilitate change and taking responsible, positive action,” Riley said.