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JCHD workgroup expands promotion of local trails

A recreational development and work group with the Jessamine County Health Department that began in 2013 in response to the community health needs assessment and plans began looking at ways to address the obesity issue in the county.

“We see that about 31 percent of our population are defined as being obese,” said Randy Gooch, public health director of the Jessamine County Health Department. “That’s almost in line with the state of Kentucky, which I think is around 32 percent.  Obviously, it is an issue that we need to give consideration to begin work on, and that’s when the work group for physical activity was actually formed.”

Gooch said that the JCHD’s Senior Health Environmentalist/Preparedness Coordinator Lindsay Ames and Community Health Manager Andrea Brown have been leading the charge for the workgroup and its work on trails in Jessamine County.

Funding for the work being done on the trails comes in part from a recent grant from EnviroHealth Link, a national program that makes funding available to the states’ Department of Public Health. The program focuses on environmental health issues.

“Last year, we received a grant to purchase some geo-mapping equipment,” Gooch said. “This year, we had the opportunity to apply for the grant again.”

The goal of the program is to better inform the public of the extensive hiking and biking trails in the county, and benefits that they offer despite the level of use they receive.

“We realized that a lot of the community didn’t realize that there are existing trails,” Lindsay Ames said. “We’ve been trying to highlight and promote these trails.”

Ames said that the project started with the Jessamine Creek Gorge, which is soon receiving wooden signs to help navigate the trails. They will join the large name sign which is already in place and becoming a photographic hit with visitors.

“It’s getting a lot of pictures taken and put on social media,” Ames said. Such promotion has helped the trail become the most popular one in the county.

Other such hiking attractions gaining popularity are the Hickman Creek Nature Center, Jim Beam Trail and the wooded area behind Camp Nelson. Some of the trails are owned by the county, and the others by the nature conservancy.

Ames said that to help the workgroup increase promotion of the trails, they have enlisted the help of numerous volunteers to attend monthly group hikes and post photos on social media. A new website is also in the works, which is planned to launch by June 1. The site will offer information on each of the trails so that hikers can choose the best adventure to embark upon. Maps of the trails will also be provided, as well as the availability of other forms of recreation such as biking and canoeing. The site will also have a method for trail visitors to check in as a way to keep tabs on the usage of each trail.

“Somebody will hike the trails for us with a GPS going,” Ames said.

“We think it is going to be a really good tool for our community to get people out and moving,” Andrea Brown said. Gooch added that the proposal for the website allowed for 22 different trail locations to be included, which he said is a significant number of trails in the county. Trails in neighboring counties that are partially in Jessamine or very close—such as Raven Run and Shaker Town—will be included as well.

Ames noted as a reminder for those who prefer paved paths over trails that the county offers options such as Lake Mingo Park and Riney B. Park, which she said some people may not know about.

“We have also been a proponent for the safe routes to school path grants that have been applied for and partially received,” Gooch said. “Our board of health had voted to also be a contributor in some of the matching funds. We think that’s going to be a very big plus for Jessamine County. It will connect a lot of paths to give people a much better opportunity to be active in.”

That path—the School Connector Bike and Pedestrian Path—will begin on Harrodsburg Road past West Jessamine High School and come down Highway 29 through town out to East Jessamine High, connecting all the schools. Involvement in such projects could increase the activity of the workgroup in the future.

For more information on the trails in Jessamine County, visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/JessCo.Trails/.