Happy Trails!

Published 10:45 am Thursday, May 5, 2016

WINTON – A $100,000 grant from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust will target an effort to improve foot traffic safety and ease of connectivity between Ahoskie’s three public schools and the Roanoke-Chowan Community Health Center (RCCHC).

The announcement was made in Winton on Monday morning at the regularly scheduled meeting of the Hertford County Board of Commissioners.

The grant application was the work of the Hertford County office of North Carolina Cooperative Extension and its partners – RCCHC, Hertford County Public Schools, Hertford Health Access, Hertford County Student Wellness Center, Roanoke-Chowan Community College, Youth Workforce In Action, and the Active Routes to School organization.

“We would not have received these funds if it had not been for this partnership,” explained Stephanie Parker-Helmkamp, Hertford County Extension Director. “The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust took note of the strong partnership we at Cooperative Extension had with this project.”

Parker-Helmkamp said the paved, one-mile walking trail will be ADA compliant (four feet wide) and will connect Hertford County High School, Ahoskie Elementary School, Bearfield Primary School and RCCHC.

“It will provide a safe area for those choosing to walk,” she said. “Also, we have an agreement in place with the Town of Ahoskie, who will perform upgrades and repairs to their sidewalks in that area that will overlap with this new walking trail.”

Parker-Helmkamp added that Ahoskie’s part of the plan includes the installation of handicap access ramps at necessary locations, and painting crosswalks. A longer range plan with Ahoskie officials may lead to the connection of the town’s walking trails with this new trail, thus providing over five miles of marked and maintained foot traffic areas.

“This one-mile trail will also provide a safe walking route between the three schools, instead of students having to board a bus to travel that short distance,” Parker-Helmkamp said.

However, school students are not the only ones that will benefit.

A survey conducted in 2015 that focused on the social determinants of healthy living led to a process on how to increase the availability and accessibility of fresh produce in the local area. Parker-Helmkamp said that led to the eventual formation of the Farm to School to Healthcare initiative. Part of that plan is to develop vegetable gardens at the schools with the fresh produce sold at a discounted rate to low-income residents. A “Pop-Up” market is planned for RCCHC and the walking trail can provide a safe route for those to shop at that market.

The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust funds will pay for the construction of the trail ($85,000) with the reminder earmarked for construction contingency, trail signage, and marketing. The Town of Ahoskie will cover the cost associated with the upgrades/repairs to their property that will be a part of the trail.

“This is a win-win for our students and will also assist teachers who have plans to implement walking projects,” said Ronald Gatling, Chairman of the Hertford County Commissioners. “I commend you all, all the different agencies involved, for coming together to work on this project. It will be very beneficial for the entire community.”

Groundbreaking is scheduled before the end of the current school year. The trail is expected to open before the students return to class in August.

The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust is the legacy of the late Kate Gertrude Bitting Reynolds, who was married to William Neal Reynolds, chairman of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. Before her death in 1946, Mrs. Reynolds established the Trust to continue much of the work she had supported during her lifetime.

The Trust’s mission is to improve the quality of life and the quality of health for the financially needy of North Carolina.


About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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