But a recent survey by the New Madrid County Health
Department found many people, rather than dodge
traffic or barking dogs, have simply put off that
Today, their excuses not to don their walking shoes
are gone. A grant-funded project, partnering the City
of New Madrid, the New Madrid County Health Department
and the Missouri Department of Health, has created a
new seven-tenths of a mile walking trail for public
The paved trail winds through Hunter-Dawson Park,
meandering past swingsets and slides, along the tennis
courts and across from little league baseball fields.
Eight-feet wide throughout the park, there is plenty
of room for walkers and it will soon be lighted for
those who wait until evening to take their strolls.
The creation of the trail was over a year in the
According to Dr. Charles Baker and Tammy Bennett with
the county health department, New Madrid County is one
of five counties in the Bootheel which received grant
funding in June 2000 to meet cardio-vascular problems.
The program targeted New Madrid as the area to begin
Baker, Bennett and Michele Brazel, administrator,
pointed to a community survey as the idea behind the
"We asked people what needed to be done, what
prohibits them from exercising," said Bennett. People
cited things such as lack of sidewalks, traffic and
"We thought a walking trail would give them some place
where they would feel safe to go," she said.
And walking, the community health official emphasized,
is an excellent way to fight cardio-vascular disease.
It builds up flexibility and strengthens the heart,
"I recommend that everybody walk," she said. However,
Bennett did caution that those with health problems
should always check with their healthcare provider
before beginning an exercise program.
Walkers will especially enjoy the new walking trail,
Bennett said. She noted the location in the park, just
off Highway U in New Madrid, is easily accessible to
Baker said as they considered various locations, they
approached the city about becoming a partner in the
project. He described their response as enthusiastic.
City Administrator Ferg Hunter said the New Madrid
City Council saw the partnership as a way to continue
improvements to the town's parks.
Hunter and others created the path's design with city
workers pouring the asphalt for the track. At Monday's
City Council meeting, councilmembers voted to use
money from this year's budget to provide lighting for
the trail. Also plans call for landscaping and
Catching the enthusiasm for the trail and its health
benefits, the city even applied for a supplemental
grant which would fund the construction of various
exercise stations. However, Hunter said, due to state
budget cutbacks these grants are currently on hold.
But even without these additions, Hunter described it
as a "first-class walking track. There is nothing like
it in any other of the city's parks. It provides an
opportunity for people who like to walk and
encouragement for those just getting started on a
The health department administrator said the community
feedback since the trail was opened just a week ago is
positive. "It is very nice and in a wonderful area,"
said Brazel. "Everyone worked very well in this
together and now it is here for the public to enjoy."
A grand opening is being planned for Nov. 1 to
officially inaugurate the trail.