DeFUNIAK SPRINGS, Fla. (WMBB) – City and county officials turned shovels of dirt Monday morning on a new sidewalk project in front of Walton High School.

This project will provide a five-foot-wide concrete sidewalk along the south side of Walton Road from 20th street to State Road 83.

“It’s something that’s been needed for a long time,” Walton County Commission Chairman Mike Barker said. “It’ll take kids off the streets. It’ll take grownups off the street so they can walk, traverse between the schools, the county park, and their neighborhoods to be able to get here without getting in the highway and that’s what we want to do. We want to keep people out of the street.”

Walton High School, Maude Saunders Elementary School, the WISE Center and the Walton County Vocational School are all within a mile of each other.

But none of them are connected by sidewalks.

“The sidewalk is important,” Walton County School District Director of Facilities Jill Smith said. “We have kids walking to the school from the neighborhoods that surround here and this will provide a safe route to each of our schools.”

This is the first of three phases of the sidewalk project.

Phase two will connect Walton Road to Live Oak Avenue via 20th Street. Phase three will extend the Walton Road sidewalk west of 20th Street to Highway 331.

“The council, in general, has really looked at how our city is connected and has a desire to see the city well connected and this is kinda the first piece in that larger puzzle to tie the center core of DeFuniak to the outskirts of DeFuniak,” DeFuniak Springs City Councilman Todd Bierbaum said.

Plans also include a new eight-foot-wide multi-use path along the north side of Walton Road from Wee Care Park to State Road 83.

The sidewalk project will cost about $320,000. Construction is scheduled to begin within the next 30 days.