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Students, community members join to celebrate International Walk to School Day

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Greencastle High School environmental science teacher John Garner and a group of his students walk back to GHS following Wednesday morning's observation of International Walk to School Day at Deer Meadow Primary School. Students were able to use the Albin Pond Trail to go to and from the event. Leading the class back to school are, from left, Garner, Matt York, Chelsea Doan and Taylor Gannaway, followed by classmates Tyler Hopkins, Aaron Hunter, Keith Cooper and Caleb Stodghill. Banner Graphic/JARED JERNAGAN
GREENCASTLE -- With the Albin Pond Trail now suitable for walking and receiving its finishing touches, dozens of students, community leaders and citizens gathered Wednesday morning at Deer Meadow Primary School for International Walk to School Day.

It was the city's first observance of the event, as school locations made it difficult to impossible for many students in the city to walk to school.

However, the Albin Pond Trail, in development for a decade and a half, establishes connections from Tzouanakis Intermediate School and Albin Pond Road to Deer Meadow and on to Greencastle High School and Middle School through existing pathways and sidewalks.

With the connections now established, students from all four of these schools gathered for the observance, using the trail both to get there and to return to school afterward.

Mayor Sue Murray welcomed the crowd and gave the students an idea of just how long the trip to the completed pathway has been.

"This started a long time ago -- long before most of you were born," Murray said.

Joy Marley of People Pathways added that the pathway was meant for these students and others to come, even if they weren't yet born or in school yet.

"We were expecting you, so we planned for you," Marley said. "We wanted you to be safe; we wanted you to be healthy."

Students from Deer Meadow Primary School, Tzouanakis Intermediate School, Greencastle Middle School and Greencastle High School gathered with school and city leaders as well as interested citizens for International Walk to School Day on Wednesday morning at Deer Meadow. With the Albin Pond Trail nearing completion, the event coincided with the trail's, opening, so students from each of the schools used the trail to walk to and from the event. Banner Graphic/JARED JERNAGAN
The route isn't simply one for the students, though.

Deer Meadow Principal Gwen Morris, who lives on Toddson Drive, walked from her house, met up with technology teacher Janice Heavin and 16 students and walked to school Wednesday morning.

While Marley's message was tailored to the gathered students, it might well have been extended to all the gathered Pathway users.

"Please use Albin Pond Trail. We encourage you to invite your mommas and daddies, your grandmas and grandpas," she said.

She also asked that in using the trail, everyone be courteous to other users and to take part in helping keep it clean and free of litter.

"You're going to be our goodwill ambassadors," Marley said.

Murray and Marley both took time to thank the community leaders who have taken part in the trail project over the last 15 years, noting that it's been a long, long process.

The biggest portion of the funding for the trail has come from federal transportation enhancement funds. The money comes from gasoline taxes, and cannot be used for conventional road and bridge building.

One allowed use, however, is for alternative transportation. Encouraging walking, which promotes good health and cuts down on congestion and pollution, qualifies as alternative transportation.

When the program ended, however, it was time to get on with the task for which the day called: Walking to school.

"Thank you all for coming, and now I think we have to walk to school," Murray said.

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