University hails the trail

Nick Leighty

A bicyclist takes on the USI-Burdette Trail Monday afternoon. This three-mile paved path will be honored at “Celebrate the Trail on Saturday.

Celebrate the trail is not only a celebration for the trail, but a celebration for the collaboration between county, park and the university, said Dave Enzler.

“I’m on there every day for about an hour. No matter what kind of day I’ve had, once I hit the woods, (all my worries) are all behind me,” Enzler, Director of Recreation, Fitness and Wellness said.

Lunch will be provided to all participants at noon following a short ceremony involving USI president Linda Bennett, retired park director Steve Craig, a USI alum and Enzler. Hot dogs, bratwurst, drinks and other food items will be available to all who come.

“The first two miles are very gentle rolling hills, and every quarter mile is marked with a post.” Enzler said. The last mile is half downhill, half uphill with every tenth of a mile marked.

“Like the sign says, ‘Enjoy Mother Nature’,” Enzler said. “Having this at the end of October can be a little iffy weather-wise, but it’s when the path is at it’s peak when it comes to beauty.”

Craig has been paramount with organizing the event as well as bringing about the construction of the trail, inviting each sponsor and each community figurehead to the event.

The design and construction started in 2007 and ended in 2012. The trail came about after he saw how used and out of shape the trails were.

“It’s unique, having a university connected to a park,” Craig said.

The organizer said with approximately 75% on USI property and 25% on Burdette Park property, it came at no cost to the university. When the construction began, a large sum of money was used from the park’s fund to further the project.

Funding was complete after receiving two grants for $1 million each as well as a donation of $80 thousand. It was important that no taxpayer money was used for the project, believing it could go towards better projects around the city, Craig said

“It’s a big thing when a park or entity puts up some of their own money,” Craig said. “It was instrumental on commissioner backing.”

Despite retiring on Dec. 31, 2014, Craig has been a huge benefactor for the path, saying that, regardless of his current position, he wants the event to continue for years to come.

Since the inauguration of the trail in 2012, the university’s bike program has become much more popular. With an upwards of 40 bikes available to rent, nearly all bikes are rented out constantly.

“It’s a really nice working partnership,” said Jon Bosley, Assistant Program Director of Outdoor Adventure.

If weather becomes unfavorable, a decision will be made based on the appearance of thunder and lightning whether to continue on with the event or to postpone it. This information will be available online on the university’s website prior to the event.

Posted at various points along the route will be water stations manned by university faculty and student volunteers alike to make sure participants avoid dehydration. There will also be picnic tables and other places to rest along the trail so participants can take their time along the path.