Rockwall County celebrates grand opening of new Fitness Trail

Precinct 2 County Commissioner Lee Gilbert prepares to cut the ribbon Saturday morning during the grand opening of the Rockwall County Fitness Trail. Others pictured include (from left) Precinct 3 County Commissioner Dennis Bailey; County Judge David Sweet; Jan Self, who played a key role in development of the fitness trail; Barrett Hopper of the Rockwall Running Club; Kami Webb, director of human resources for Rockwall County; Cindy Paris, president of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Rockwall; and Gilbert.

(ROCKWALL COUNTY, TX – Aug. 24, 2017) The grand opening of the Rockwall County Fitness Trail was celebrated Saturday morning with speeches, a ribbon cutting and an opportunity for participants to take an inaugural walk on the inner loop of the quarter-mile trail.

Precinct 2 County Commissioner Lee Gilbert, who has led the effort to create the fitness trail on county-owned property between the Rockwall County Courthouse and Interstate 30, opened the event by tracing the 16-month history of the project.

Gilbert, calling the project “truly a community effort,” named the many individuals and groups that played a part in developing the trail, which has a six-inch rock base that’s topped by two inches of crusher fines—small particles of crushed rock.

During the dedication ceremony, held under a shade pavilion at the trail entrance, Gilbert also told of “overwhelming” support he got from commissioners court. Commissioners approved a $60,000 budget for the project in May of 2016.

Commissioners’ support, he said, was “probably one of the strongest votes of ‘yes’ of any court that you could ever want.”
County Judge David Sweet said the trail is a “win-win” for Rockwall County.

Sweet also said he was proud of the “fiscal conservative dedication” of commissioners court.

“But I’ll tell you this, this is a minimal investment—a minimal investment—on a piece of property we’ve already got, with a maximum opportunity for return on our investment,” he said.

The “return” on the county’s investment focused on a goal of improved health for county employees and community residents who use the fitness trail regularly.

Pointing out that the fitness trail will be part of a county wellness program, Gilbert said he keeps thinking of the possibility that the facility could play a part in saving a county employee from having a heart attack.

Getting together Saturday morning after the dedication of the Rockwall County Fitness Trail are (from left) Precinct 2 County Commissioner Lee Gilbert; Jan Self, who played a key role in development of the fitness trail; Cindy Paris, president of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Rockwall; County Judge David Sweet; and Barrett Hopper of the Rockwall Running Club

Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Rockwall is a community partner on the project. The hospital donated funds to help provide fitness equipment that’s located along the course.

Hospital President Cindy Paris said hospital officials “jumped at the chance” to participate because their mission includes community wellness; they are just as concerned about helping residents stay healthy as they are about helping them when they need medical care.

Hospital physical therapists and an athletic trainer were stationed at the fitness stations along the trail route to provide information to participants on how to use the equipment.

Sweet pointed out that the 2017 County Health Rankings and Roadmaps placed Rockwall County eighth in Health Outcomes out of 243 Texas counties. He said the ranking was based on several factors, including length of life, quality of life, health factors, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment.

“So, we take health very seriously,” the county judge said.

Kami Webb, director of human resources for the county, said the fitness trail will be used for several employee and community programs.
Webb said she will work closely with County Extension Agent Aimee Sandifeer to develop diet and exercise programs. One program is “Walk Across Texas,” which promotes a daily walk to a better life.

She also wants to form a Rockwall County team to participate in the 2018 American Heart Association Heart Walk.

Click image to view Blue Ribbon News' live Facebook broadcast from the event.

It was also announced that the fitness trail will be the site of a weekly opportunity for walkers and beginner runners to meet and exercise as a group. That opportunity will be available at 6:30 a.m. each Wednesday.

Gilbert traced the fitness trail’s history back to a day in 2016 when he looked out his office window and saw Jan Self and Leigh Plagens. When he went out to greet them, Self mentioned a community need.

He said she told him that “we need a place to walk, a place that’s open, a place that people who may be preparing for 5Ks or marathons could come.”

Before she finished her sentence, Gilbert said, he knew the exact place for such a facility “because I had been thinking of that very idea for probably a year of a valuable use of the property here at the courthouse.”

After that brief meeting, Self contacted Barrett Hopper of the Rockwall Running Club. She asked him to provide ideas of “what a track should look like.”

Gilbert contacted Thom Loafman, a Rockwall graphic artist, to design how a fitness trail could fit into the area. Gilbert said his son, Ben, put together a presentation. Gilbert then made his presentation to commissioners court.

“Our county came together as well as any group of working people could,” he said. Gilbert said Pat NeSmith, the county’s road and bridge administrator, put together specifications for the 10-foot-wide track, then supervised construction.

Rob Kimmelman (The Patient Gardener) installed the fitness equipment along the trail and four Boy Scouts from Troop 989 built and installed three benches each as their Eagle Scout project. The Boy Scouts are Michael Norwood, Bradley Mitchell, Drew Page and Hayden Kinslow.
Close to 100 people attended the dedication, including Precinct 3 County Commissioner Dennis Bailey; Judge Brett Hall of 382nd District Court; Royse City Mayor Janet Nichol; Fate Assistant City Manager Justin Weiss; Leigh Plagens of the Rockwall Independent School District Board of Trustees; and Dana Macalik of the Rockwall City Council.

The audience also included a group representing the Rockwall County 4-H Club and about 20 members of the Rockwall Running Club.

Submitted press release.

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