Daniel Boone Rails to Trails- Building Connections to my New Home

It’s not often I have the opportunity to facilitate one of my favorite strategic planning activities in my own town of Morehead, Kentucky. I moved to Morehead from Portland Oregon (with a buffer year in Louisville) after falling in love with my life partner. Leaving a bicycling friendly, physically active town with a true culture of health to a small (7000 residents) Appalachian town was the biggest culture shock of my life. And, I’ve lived abroad in Curicó, Chile and Auckland, New Zealand! I could complain about the lack of recycling programs and arugula salad options. The lack of motorists who see cyclists and lack of access to the New York Times except for Sundays… however, that’s not who I am. I’m a glass is half-full type of gal and I embrace the journey I’m on, especially the one where I made the decision to pick up and leave for love.

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I met my group of friends here because they mountain bike, or rock climb, or carry reusable grocery bags. They donate to the recycling center, enjoy lunchtime walks in my neighborhood, drink local brews and eat arugula salad. 😉 It’s the small things you find in common with people in a place where you don’t quite feel like you belong. Other than connecting with some amazing people that I genuinely love to be with, it’s important to me to contribute to the community I live in. I don’t know if we’ll live here forever, probably not full-time forever, but for the time being, I’m dedicated to living here and contributing in any way that I can.

I’ve been able to build relationships and trust with the school system to offer pro-bono professional development to the health teachers in the district. I sit on two advisory boards- one for the Innovation Launchpad (where we have our co-work space) and New Cities Morehead - a council of diverse stakeholders addressing livability measures in our county. Through New Cities, I met Scott Davison, an MSU Professor of Philosophy and member of our Rowan County School Board. Scott is also the President of the Daniel Boone Rails to Trails (DBRT) a non-profit promoting walking, hiking, and cycling in and around Morehead, KY. One of the projects the DBRT has desired to implement for a very long time is the Triplett Valley Trail, a multi-use path for walkers, hikers, cyclists and more. It would enhance livability and transportation options between the University and businesses downtown and be located along Triplett Creek downtown.

Scott and Connie Spencer-Ackerman (Treasurer/Secretary) reached out to me about facilitating a community event to build awareness of the DBRT and the Project, build interest and strategize to make this trail come to light. Obviously, the opportunity was a perfect marriage between my love and dedication to creating a culture of health in schools and communities as well as my background as a facilitator of strategic planning processes!

One break-out group working on their “Cover Story”

One break-out group working on their “Cover Story”

Drew Henderson and Pastor Alex Lockridge at the First Baptist Church graciously provided the space for us to hold the event. Mike Long, manager of KFC provided dinner for over 40 people. We had about 30 adults and six children come to the event, which we considered a huge success given the downpour of rain that began the hour prior. Community members came because they live close to the proposed trail, are avid walkers, or would like to increase the opportunity for physical activity here in the community. I was struck by the energy, passion and interest in the room!

Scott began the evening sharing about the history of the Daniel Boone Rails to Trails and its research on the project to date. He shared map renderings of the proposed phases of the trail and options in more challenging areas (passing over creeks, for example). This led us into my facilitation piece, around visioning. The larger group was split into three smaller groups to determine what news would be coming out of Morehead in 5 years from now if the Triplett Creek Trail were to be successful. The energy from these three groups was amazing! People had so much fun thinking ‘out of the box’ and creatively thinking about what this project might do for our town and community as a whole. The activity is meant for people to have fun, be creative and get to know each other a bit more. Groups talked about 5K Race opportunities and increase of college students walking to dinner and the movies rather than driving. The groups discussed how health insurance rates would drop and a sense of community would increase. The ideas were creative, fun and many that could lead to concrete ideas for a strategic plan. Many people left saying they met some new folks and confidently shared they would want to stay involved.

Many people asked when the next meeting would be, so I want to share that we will be hosting our next meeting on Monday, August 19 from 6-8. Location TBD, but hopefully same location. Our plan is to work on strengths, problems, opportunities and threats related to the proposal trail and project. We want public health, law enforcement, transportation, businesses, university and hospital representatives, parents, neighbors, educators to come and provide input. The more awareness and education we can build around the project, the likelihood it will be successful through its inception to implementation!

I also want to give a public shout out to Jessi Robinson at Print & Pixel in Mt Sterling, KY for offering her time pro-bono to develop our information flyer for the event!