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Kitties and frogs in W. Jordan urge crosswalk safety

SHARE Kitties and frogs in W. Jordan urge crosswalk safety

They're painting cats and frogs out here, and it doesn't have a thing to do with art or the weather.

Meet Cautious Kitty.And her little green amphibian buddy, Freddy Frog.

They're real lifesavers.

And you can find them at some 90 intersections and school crossings throughout West Jordan, patiently waiting for youngsters to stand on them.

It's all part of an innovative and inexpensive child pedestrian safety program designed to teach kids a simple principle: "Stop and Take A Peek Before You Leap."

Both these kid-friendly critters are stenciled wherever elementary-schoolers have to cross the street.

Cautious Kitty is peeking watchfully over a fence, always on the lookout for oncoming traffic. In an intersection used by schoolchildren, you'll find her painted on the pavement at two of the corners.

The ones that are kitty-cornered, of course.

Freddy Frog isn't about to hop anywhere until he makes sure the coast is clear. He's painted on the other two corners.

Whenever a child prepares to cross the street, he or she is supposed to stand on the frog or cat and carefully look both ways before venturing out into the street.

Call each stencil a "safe spot," said Carolyn Nelson, a part-time city crossing guard who came up with the safety program concept. "It's somewhere for them to stand for a moment before the crossing guard tells them to go."

The idea, Nelson said, is to interrupt that youthful momentum that tends to send kids inching out into the street and into the path of traffic.

"Children need a spot to focus on," she said. "They really don't think cars will hit them.

"If we can slow them down and make them think for a half-second, we can prevent accidents," the crossing guard added. "The animals provide a visible barrier that helps them stop."

Nelson, a member of the city's Planning Commission, said she got the idea while reading a planning magazine that cited a similar program in Florida using alligators.

She talked to her crossing guard supervisor, Linda Buttars, and the City Council about trying a similar approach in West Jordan.

"They said go with it," Nelson said, "so we set up a committee."

That group made the final decisions about which critters to use and how to implement the program using volunteer help.

"We felt it would make a great Eagle Scout project," she said.

And young Carter Chase, a Varsity Scout from Troop 974, just happened to be looking for such a service opportunity.

One of Chase's neighbors made the stencils, the city bought about $150 worth of long-lasting paint used for striping roadways, and Chase organized his Scout buddies into a painting crew.

At the same time, Nelson said, the committee put together an educational plan that crossing guards and DARE officers then took into local elementary schools.

"It's very simple," said Mayor Max Hogan. "But it works. Our limited experience so far shows that kids catch on to it easily.

"We think it's really a great program," he added. "And it has been done entirely by volunteers."

City Manager Dan Dahlgren said other communities have expressed an interest in the "Frogs, Cats and Kids" program as I-15 reconstruction has created heavier traffic volumes on local city roads.

Nelson said she has received one inquiry about the program from as far away as Idaho Falls.

"It just takes a few volunteers," she said.

Dahlgren said the sturdy paint used for the frogs and cats is expected to hold up a long time.

"But as the city grows" and more new intersections or crossings are constructed, he said, "there will be more to paint."