What started as an idea for a school to be healthier has now turned into a community-wide initiative to give people in the Enola Community and beyond a new place to exercise in the beauty of Mother Nature.

Construction of a 3-mile-long walking trail connecting Patton High School and Mull Elementary School is in the works and will not be fully completed for two to three years.

“It is going to be a really exciting project,” said Amy Vaughn, an English teacher at Patton High School, who is helping to organize the project. “We have been working on it for about a year trying to build community support and gain funding.”

Their goal as of right now is to get the first phase completed, a three-mile round trip trail starting at Enola Road across from Cross Memorial Baptist Church traveling behind the football field and across Fiddler’s Run Creek on up toward Mull Elementary, she said.

Eventually, they hope to have a loop trail that will include a section at Enola Road and go toward Mull Elementary and comeback across a pasture to Patton to complete the loop. They also have envisioned an outdoor classroom area, she said.

The idea, Vaughn says, was the brain child of Noel Francis, another teacher at Patton High School, whose biology class from a few years back was the first to “carve” out the primitive trail.

As part of their classwork, the students would go out and look at the different parts of the environment on Patton’s property.

“That grew into a desire for an outdoor classroom that several teachers, including myself, were interested in,” Vaughn said.

Later on, the Patton Giving Games were created, where each year the student body decides on an activity of giving back to their communities.

“About two years ago, we began looking around for another project that would be something that our school could examine an issue within our community and somehow contribute to it,” Vaughn said.

After doing an independent study within the school body, students came to the conclusion that physical health and well being was an issue they would like to address.

“We made the commitment in 2015-16 school year to move more and what we as teachers tried to do is get our students out to walk,” she said.

One problem they encountered was that there was not much space to take kids on walks, unlike Freedom High School which has Freedom Park right next door, she said.

They found that the school year was more enjoyable and each class found ways to deliver curriculum while walking outside.

“We then began to realize we really do need a bigger space if we are going to try and continue doing this,” Vaughn said.

The idea for the outdoor classroom morphed into including a trail as well.

The school has a goal of providing, not only for themselves, but the community as well, a place where they can go to exercise with family or as individuals, Vaughn said.

“Ultimately, we want to have a multi-generational park that is going to be located behind our football field, but again that is probably a couple years down the road,” she said.

From little kids to older adults, they hope that this trail can bring together the Enola community to help change people’s lives in a positive way, she said.

This trail is something the community needs as well because some people in this area have to drive approximately 20 minutes to the Greenway in Morganton, she said.

“This would be a good place for people who are on their way to Food Lion to stop and walk for 20 minutes,” she said. “We want it to be a community hub.”

They have begun flattening and grading a section of trail that will all be on Burke County Schools property, Vaughn said.

They also are working with Salem United Methodist Church to write a grant to construct a bridge that is needed over the Fiddler’s Run Creek that leads to Mull Elementary School, she said.

“Our hope is that by the time school starts back this August we will have a primitive trail be available for use by the Patton cross country team,” she said. “It is not open to the community just yet, but we are probably a year away from that.”

They are still in the process of implementing safety precautions and removing vegetation.

“There is a lot to be done before we can open it up to the community,” Vaughn said.

They most likely will be conducting more community surveys to see what their next steps should be, she said.

They recently received a $10,000 grant from Resourceful Communities to help clear out and landscape the trail using a Bobcat excavator and control erosion. Habitat for Humanity also has been supporting the work of the trail since there is a Habitat community across from Patton High School, she said.

Staff Writer Jonelle Bobak can be reached at jbobak@morganton.com or 828-432-8907.

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