HUNTINGTON — After years of planning, the long-awaited Paul Ambrose Trail for Health took two steps forward Tuesday.
Officials hosted a dedication ceremony for a paved walking and bicycling pathway that snakes through St. Cloud Commons just hours before Huntington City Council approved a contract to build five more miles of walking and biking trails and trailheads in three different areas of the city.
The Paul Ambrose Trail for Health, or PATH, consists of 64 miles of existing or planned pathways and share-the-road routes which will eventually connect all of Huntington's parks and major employers from the West End to Altizer. Named for Dr. Paul Ambrose, a promising young physician who died Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists crashed the plane he was on into the Pentagon, planners view the trail system as a tool to fight obesity and enhance the quality of life for Tri-State residents.
"We've taken this as a charge that we're going to help our area along," state Sen. Bob Plymale, D-Wayne, said during the dedication ceremony at St. Cloud Commons. "There's nothing I've ever been involved in that means more than what we're doing with PATH."
The paved walking and bicycling loop at St. Cloud Commons is just shy of a mile and was completed a few weeks ago. It was built with a grant from Chad Pennington's 1st and 10 Foundation and with funds raised by the Rahall Transportation Institute. Officials hope to build a pathway to connect it to the western end of Ritter Park in the future.
Kevin Brady, executive director of the Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District, said the paved loop has brought more people to St. Cloud Commons to exercise. The park also has three softball fields and a clubhouse for meetings and events.
"We had a horrible problem with vandalism. A couple of years ago, someone stole the wiring out of the ball field lights four separate times," Brady said. "We aren't seeing problems like that anymore as more people use the park."
The $2.3 million contract Huntington City Council approved with Famco Inc. will go toward three sections of crushed limestone trails and trailheads. More than five miles of walking and biking paths will run along bodies of water, making once-hidden views of Huntington easily accessible, according to city officials. The funds for the projects come from a combination of federal grants.
In the West End, a trailhead with a kiosk, bike racks, landscaping and a wheelchair-accessible ramp will be built at the base of the earthen levee at 3rd Street West. The ramp will wind to a 3.5-mile trail that will run along the top of the levee to Vinson Road in Westmoreland. Small portions of the trail will drop off of the levee to accommodate pump stations.
In Guyandotte, another trailhead will be built near the boat launch ramp, which will serve as the northern end of a 1.25-mile trail that will run underneath the new 5th Avenue bridge and along the Guyandotte River side of the floodwall until Main Street turns into Riverside Drive. The trail then will jump across the road and run along Riverside Drive until it stops at the Washington Boulevard bridge. There are future plans for the trail to extend to Altizer Park.
And in Harveytown, a trailhead will be constructed at Harveytown Park. A half-mile trail will run from the park through a wooded area along the Hisey Fork of Fourpole Creek and connect to the existing trail in the western end of Ritter Park. The project also calls for a pedestrian bridge that will cross the Hisey Fork of Fourpole Creek.
The construction contract calls for the project to be completed within five months of Famco being given the notice to proceed.
Earlier in September, City Council approved a contract to begin design services for a bicycle and pedestrian bridge to span Hal Greer Boulevard in front of Cabell Huntington Hospital. The bridge will help link Ritter Park, the hospital and Spring Hill Cemetery, officials say.
The $2.25 million estimated cost for the bridge will be paid for with a $1.8 million federal grant along with a $450,000 contribution from the Cabell Huntington Hospital Foundation. An additional federal grant and local matching funds totaling $1.13 million will cover the cost of the trails that will connect Spring Hill Cemetery and Ritter Park to the bridge as well as trail sections from 3rd Street West to Harris Riverfront Park and from the riverfront park to 24th Street in Highlawn.
The routes that these trails will take have not been determined. It also is not known whether they will be trails similar to the Ritter Park walking trail or use existing roadways as part of a share-the-road design.