Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

July 15, 2014

New walking, running trails in Athens hope to get folks moving

ATHENS — Arrows, numerals and the cryptic letters “ACT” have appeared on the sidewalks of Athens and Concord University.

No, it’s not creative graffiti from mathematicians. It’s the evidence of an effort to encourage town residents and the university’s students to go walking and running for their health.

The Athens-Concord Trails (ACT) are taking shape on the sidewalks, more than two years after the idea was floated at an Athens Town Council meeting, and following numerous meetings with university officials.

From a starting point on campus between the Alexander Fine Arts Center and the football field parking lot, three routes take participants for a one-, two- or three-mile trip. Each crosses the border of campus and into the town limits.

“This was a nice first step,” said Rick Dillon, vice president of administration at Concord. “Anything we can do to promote that we are a whole community ... is a good move.”

Athens resident Paul Hodges, a former town council member and longtime track coach, said on Monday, “Since I ran, I kind of volunteered to take charge of it.”

This month, it was time to put paint on concrete.

“I bought me a pair of knee pads and got down on my knees and started painting,” Hodges said. He painted the town portion of the circuit in about three days, and Concord maintenance employee Stanley Metz worked a couple of days on the university sidewalks.

With the help of council member Tim Pike, the painters got assistance from a local firm, Custom Management Services, which cut metal stencils for the job at no charge, Hodges said.

There are mileage indicators on the sidewalks at each quarter of a mile. Concord provided the waterproof paint. Black paint is used for the one-mile route, white for the two-mile course and maroon for the three-mile circuit.

Two maps are being ordered to explain the routes. One will be at the origin point of the trail on campus and the other will be erected somewhere in town. The university and town will split the cost. Lance McDaniel, a runner who is also a graphic artist on the Concord staff, created the map.

The trail “made sense to us,” Dillon said. “It’s an inexpensive way to promote good health (with a) really modest fiscal commitment.”

“Really, Paul deserves the credit,” Dillon said. He came forward with this. It was his brainchild. ... Paul put in a lot of time walking, picking out a route that is not only convenient but is also a safe route.”

He added, “It’s nice to have folks you can work with and get along well with.”

Concord is in the process of spending a million dollars to upgrade its sidewalks in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Dillon said, noting that the improvements will be beneficial to all users.

Hodges said, “What we’d like to see is that people get out and walk more.” The letters ACT were chosen “to portray the idea of ... action,” he said. “Get off your butt and act.”

— Contact Tom Bone at

tbone@bdtonline.com;

Twitter @BDTBone

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