Trail to enrich campus for students, community


KYANA — What started as an ambitious goal for Pine Ridge Elementary is becoming a reality.

By the end of the school year, the school will open a half-mile trail around the campus for student and community use. CalCar Paving of Jasper began foundation work on the trail and plans to begin paving later this month. The trail is scheduled to open in May.

“I think after [paving starts] it’s a pretty quick process,” said Pine Ridge Principal Ryan Haas.

The roughly $55,000 project will pave the existing gravel track and add other paved portions connected by existing sidewalks. It’s funded through community donations and grants, primarily the Upgrade wellness grant from Evansville’s Welborn Baptist Foundation.

The Upgrade grant used to be called the Heroes grant, and Pine Ridge was awarded the three-year grant in 2017. The grant requirements culminate with a large campus enhancement project. Pine Ridge’s trail is one of the more ambitious projects, according to Chrissy Ash, the physical activity coordinator with the Welborn Baptist Foundation.

“They decided to go big,” Ash said of Pine Ridge during a visit to campus during the school’s Wellness Week in March.

Haas acknowledges that the trail was a lofty goal, especially with how quickly it’s come together. Just a year ago, Haas said, the project was “a maybe.”

“Now thanks to a lot of hard work from school staff and the community, it will be a reality,” he said.

Community donations helped make the trail a reality. Haas also applied for several additional grants. Most recently, he applied for a grant from International Paper, which has a facility in St. Anthony, that will pay for a gate and fence around the track area. He’s also applied for grants to add water fountains and other features. He hasn’t heard if the school won those yet.

Once the trail opens, it will be a resource both students and community members can use to fit more physical activity into their schedules. School staff plan to use the trail for the annual Pine Ridge Physical Fitness Challenge at the end of the year that includes a 1 mile run. Students will also have regular access to the trail for recess, gym class and breaks in the day.

“Students will be able to go out there and come back in engaged and ready to finish the day or the lesson,” Haas said.

After school hours, the trail will give community members a safe place to come walk or run. Currently, that part of the county lacks a good place for people to train for 5Ks and other races. Haas said that’s one need the school hopes the trail will fill. Plus, it will be a nice facility for community members who already use the school’s campus for exercise.

“We’re hoping that this enriches their experience and attracts more people to come up here,”  Haas said. “It will be a resource for the communities that feed into Pine Ridge.”

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