At your own pace: East Y completes handicapped-accessible walking trail
By Susan Shinn
ROCKWELL ó A whole passel of folks showed up Wednesday morning to check out the recently completed handicapped-accessible walking trail at the Saleeby-Fisher YMCA.
The trail is fantastic ó but the real beauty of it is that every walker can go at his or her own pace.This includes kids in the daycamp program, Y staffers, runners ó even the charter members who refer to themselves as “sexy senior citizens.”
Larry Jones, the state’s coordinator for the Americans with Disabilities Act program, called it “one of the best trails I’ve seen statewide.”
David Freeze is the East Y’s property manager and has been given a lot of credit for the project. But he’s quick to point out that the new trail came to fruition with the help of many people.
East-area Civitans blazed the original trail when the Y opened in 2001. The addition was completed in September. Benches every 500 feet ó added this spring ó and gentle slopes in accordance with ADA make the trail enjoyable ó and doable ó for anyone.
A concrete ramp at the trail’s entrance makes it navigable by scooter or wheelchair.
During the United Way Day of Caring in September, volunteers Scott Trexler, Matt Bernhardt and Mike West from Salisbury-Rowan Utilities graded and laid down gravel on the path that Brandon Cornelius cleared with a bulldozer.
His wife, Lindsay, was a new Y staff member. When she heard the trail needed clearing, she immediately volunteered her husband for the job.
“Is this afternoon soon enough?” she asked her new bosses.
He’s owner of Cornelius Earthworks, which does grading and site development.
(Now, how fortuitous was that?!)
Lindsay Cornelius wanted to make a good impression on her employer, she said with a laugh.
“He was thrilled to do it,” she said of her husband.
Other members of her family got involved, too. Her father-in-law Charles installed the ramp.
Linda Bost, the Y’s executive director, walked the property last summer with her husband Tim. Wouldn’t this be a great place to expand the trail, they thought.
So Bost, who’s with the Sheriff’s Department, laid it out.
The route totals 1.77 miles, although it’s broken up into several separate trails. The Bost Loop ó named for Linda Bost ó is .77 miles. The Civitan Loop is .53 miles. The United Way is about a half mile, and the Cornelius Shortcut ó which cuts across Bost Loop ó is .1 mile.
According to Jones, factors that make the trail handicapped accessible include:
– A firm, stable, slip-resistant surface.
– Graduated sloping.
– Benches at natural points to rest.
– A route that gives a person with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from the experience.
“The thing about that project that impressed me was the amount of input they had from the disabled community before they developed their final plan,” Jones said.
He commended the community for working together.
Cozart Lumber donated the wood for a substantial bridge. David Schlang, a friend of Bost’s, donated the steel.
The bridge is so sturdy, Freeze pointed out, that it can accommodate a firetruck if need be. Engineer David Roberts in Landis donated his time to design the bridge.
All told, Freeze said, the trail improvements were worth $65,000. Others providing free or reduced costs on materials were Trexler Trucking, Bill Earnhardt Trucking and Vulcan Materials.
“It was a huge community effort,” he said. “It just came together in a wonderful way.”
Most of the trail is shaded by tall trees, and it’s a cool and pleasant place in the early-morning hours.
The benches and upkeep ó adding gravel in the future ó were accomplished with grants from the Robertson and Woodson foundations.
“Many people wouldn’t attempt to do it if it didn’t have benches,” said Jo Ford, who walks with husband Charles.
Jo Ford broke her pelvis a year ago, and relied on water aerobics to help her walk again.
Ford uses a four-pronged cane. He had no trouble on the trail.
The Fords are part of a group of morning walkers that includes Richard Jones, Eddie Woody and Shotgun Talbert.
The men spend an hour and a half walking either indoors or outdoors and lifting weights, then another hour or so drinking coffee and solving all the world’s problems, Jones said.
“We take turns buying coffee,” Talbert said, “but it’s free.”
Woody, who’s had four heart attacks and two bypasses, comes to the Y three days a week.
“I’m definitely doing it for my health,” he said. “Walking and weightlifting keeps my cholesterol down.”
Noah Henley had a right knee replacement seven weeks ago. He tried out the trail on Wednesday, and did use the benches a time or two.
“My degree’s in biology,” said Henley, who teaches full-time at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College and part-time at Catawba College. “I spend my time looking at the birds and the trees and things like that.”
Members aren’t the only ones who benefit from the trail.
The Y offers a wellness program, in which staffers may exercise on the clock three days a week for 30 minutes.
Bridget Dexter said she felt like she was getting away from work while walking.
“It’s a good mental break to be out in the trees,” Amy Boger said.
“It’s a nice, quiet walk,” Nicole Hill added.
Runners also love the trail.
Freeze, who’s competed in two dozen marathons, often runs the trail. But when he walks through ó which is nearly every day ó he takes note of things that need to be done.
Meredith Abramson makes enough loops to equal “four miles and some change,” she said.
“We all know exercise is good for the body and soul,” she said, taking a quick break from her morning run. “Being in Mother Nature’s realm ó you can’t get much better than that.”
Abramson started running on the trail as soon she could.
“I think I snuck in,” she admitted.
She noted that every season offers something a bit different.
Thanks to the trail’s accessibility, anyone can explore its delights as the seasons pass.
For more information about the Saleeby-Fisher YMCA trail, call 704-279-1742.