20081020acp185_trail_sp13Driving to work in Winchester, Gina Lang noticed a scenic piece of farmland right across from Wal-Mart. That, she thought, would be a great place to walk.

Lang joined Kristian Wagner, Health Education Coordinator of the Clark County Health Department at the next meeting of the Clark County Physical Activity Coalition and shared her “crazy idea of putting a trail smack dab in the middle of Winchester.”

The coalition saw promise in the idea and agreed to ask the local hospital if they could borrow the land for a hiking trail. Rather than paving a path that would be expensive and permanent, the coalition proposed creating a trail by simply mowing a 0.9-mile swatch of land for walkers to follow. When the hospital is ready to develop the land, the trail could be moved to a new location, making it a “traveling trail”.

The hospital was concerned about liability. What if someone got hurt on the trail? But Lang proposed the hospital could lease the land to the Clark County Health Department for a dollar a year. The department could then cover the trail on its insurance policy at no additional cost. After the hospital and health department agreed to the plan, the Winchester Commission for Planning and Zoning had to approve the trail through a public hearing. With overwhelming support at the public hearing, the trail was approved and Parks and Recreation agreed to add the trail to its regular mowing rotation.

The community came together to create the mile-long circular route, provide benches and seating along the path, donate stations for dogs, and post signage for the traveling trail. The local Rails to Trails group even built a bridge over the lowlands. “That’s why you have a lot of people working together on this,” said Lang.

“Bring as many partners into the process as possible, especially those from the private sector. This initiative was successful because many different entities worked together to come up with creative ideas to address a need in the community.”

Scott Lockard, Clark County Health Department Director

The availability of the trail has brought exercise away from the unfriendly, vehicular traffic on the streets to a more accessible location for the community. Once the Traveling Trail was created at least four addition trails were created by other groups in Clark County.

  • Calvary Christian Church Path, 1.5 miles
  • The Main Street Mile, 1 mile
  • Cooperative Extension Office Garden Trail, 0.8 mile
  • Industrial Authority Board Trail, 3 miles

The Physical Activity Coalition estimates that the trail has over 3,000 uses in the spring and summer. “Since the trail is so visible, it encourages others to use it when they see people walking,” said Lang. ”The Traveling Trail has become a very social place. When you make exercise social, you have taken it to a whole other dimension in people’s lives.”

Want to read the full story about Winchester or other communities’ successes? Check out Shaping Kentucky’s Future: A Community Guide to Reducing Obesity, Local Success Stories.

Mow It and They Will Come