ASHTON — The community can take a step in the right direction by utilizing the new walking track at Ashton Elementary.
The new track is available to school children as well as the community during hours when school is not in session. Just enter through the side fence on to the playground.
Costing over $24,000, the track is one-quarter mile long and eight-feet wide. The majority of the track was paid for with a $12,800 grant from the Robert and Louise Claflin Foundation with around $9,000 from the state of West Virginia, earmarked by former State Sen. Karen Facemyer.
Larry Gibbs, a physical education teacher, said a gravel track was put in behind the school in 2003 but over time, the rain and weather took its toll and gravel was constantly being washed away. This obviously made the surface less than level no matter how many times Gibbs added rocks and more gravel to the original track which was also not as wide.
Gibbs, along with School Nurse Lydia Gordon approached Stephen Littlepage, administrator of the Claflin Foundation, about getting funding to pave the track. Littlepage assisted them in finding out how New Haven Elementary organized their walking track, also financed by the Claflin Foundation. After that, a wellness committee was formed at Ashton Elementary and the grant writing process began.
Littlepage said the project was funded in part because it’s not only for students by for the community. He added the Claflin Foundation wanted to be part of a project in the Southern end of the county. The fact the track is on school property means it will likely be taken care of and the maintenance kept up which was another bonus. It’s also a bonus that a healthy option for exercising has been added to the community.
Gibbs said this is a community with a lot of rural trails but no sidewalks. The track is also a new place for residents to gather and as Gordon said, a healthy option to combat heart disease, obesity and diabetes, among others. Gordon said a walking club has even been started at the school where students have been challenged to walk 50 miles in a year. Last year, Emily Edmonds walked 77 miles and will likely walk even more on the new paved track.
Gordon and Gibbs are also looking for more grants to place outdoor exercise equipment at different stations around the track with one exercise bike already placed and an elliptical on the way. Gibbs and Gordon say this creates an outdoor wellness center.
Gordon said walking is an easy exercise most everyone can do. Adding, Ashton has a student in a wheelchair who can now access the paved track and Gibbs said the Hannan track team has a place to practice at Ashton as well.
Littlepage said the Claflins were big believers in “healthy minds, healthy bodies” and this project fit well with the foundation’s mission. That mission, since it’s first grant cycle in 2009, has been to fund projects exclusively in Mason County that benefit the lives of its residents.
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