03/30/07 — Mount Olive may build walking, biking trail

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Mount Olive may build walking, biking trail

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on March 30, 2007 1:48 PM

Recognizing the increases in obesity nationwide and realizing the importance of setting Mount Olive apart from its competitors, town officials are looking to take advantage of Mount Olive College's new Pope Wellness Center by creating a walking and biking trail that would span from the college to downtown.

It's a project, town Manager Charles Brown said, that is only now beginning to get off the ground.

"We're still in the early planning stages," he said. "We'd like to set it up so people can actually walk to the fitness center, do whatever kind of workout and then walk home."

He envisions the trail eventually starting between the college and Sleep Inn, running along Henderson Street through the campus, crossing Brazil Avenue and Chestnut Street, turning onto Center Street and running through the downtown before circling back somewhere around the Mount Olive History Museum.

He also hopes that a spur can be added to connect the trail to the nearby Westbrook Park.

He estimates it will be about three miles in length.

"Ideally, what we'd like to have as well, are some exercise stations along the way," Brown said.

He's also hoping that this trail will be just the first step in making Mount Olive a healthier community.

"The long-range goal is to utilize the property we will have as our tree farm and actually make that into a longer walking trail -- about four-and-a-half to five miles," he said.

Eventually, he's hoping the town could be recognized as a Fit Community by the North Carolina Health and Wellness Trust Fund -- something that not only would be meaningful for the current residents, but also a draw to those looking to move to town.

"One of the big factors industrial site search committees look at now are the incidents of obesity in a community, because other than salary, one of the biggest expenditures you have for personnel are health care costs," Brown said. "We think this'll add to the attractiveness of Mount Olive."

Currently, though, they are still looking for planning grants to help begin laying out those details.

"I think we're probably a year out," he said, adding, though, that once the trail is fully planned, it shouldn't take long to put it in place. "It's not like we have to go out and build something.

"With this, creating the plan is probably going to be the hardest part."