Over 40 community partners have come together as a coalition in a project titled “Wild and Wonderful Trails for Every Child”. Our goal is to build a nature trail and community garden at every school and park in the county. Our fundraising and volunteer activities will support accessible after school programs on the local trails to build family fitness, teach nutrition through “edible” gardens, and hopefully reattach children back to nature. The initiative will designate safe routes to school for walking and biking, gather and distribute donor bikes to put kids and bikes on these routes- and over time hopefully change the culture of how the community lives. The vision is a ring of trails initially focused around the school and expanding and connecting as the community sees the value not just in health, but in the aesthetic economic impact a pedestrian and bike friendly community brings.
Key partners from National Park Service, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, National Conservation and Training Center, Potomac Audubon Society, County Commissioners Office, Jefferson County School Board, Jefferson County Parks and Recreation, Harpers Ferry Family Medicine, multiple outdoor education specialists, Shepherd University, local business, and youth programs are united in this effort. Freedom’s Run will draw needed attention and funds to the collaborative work.
Jefferson County was once a rural and farming county, and now is transitioning to an exurb of Baltimore and DC with the high obesity rates the state is renowned for. West Virginia is the number two obese state in the nation. We are also at risk of losing our sense of place- that true understanding of the richness of the land we live on. Freedom’s Run models a new kind of collaborative between the National Parks, the history rich bordering small towns, and health community to take to the trails. Freedom’s Run will allow children and their families to raise money for their own individual school trails and gardens with an event that promotes physical activity and attachment to our rich history.
In a 1961 conference of Physical Activity and Youth, John F. Kennedy observed: “We do not want in the United States a nation of spectators. We want a nation of participants in the vigorous life. This is not a matter which can be settled, of course, from Washington. It is really a matter which starts with each individual family…” For those who live in West Virginia and share its sense of “place”, the family extends to the community.