Bellefonte middle school biking, walking trail moves closer to reality

CDT photo

The Bellefonte Area School District is one step closer to creating a quarter-mile biking and walking trail for school and public use at the middle school, thanks to a $25,000 grant from State Farm.

Bellefonte Elementary School Principal Karen Krisch said that all she has to do now is present the blueprints of the Bellefonte Area Middle School walking trail to the school board and hope it gets approved in April.

“It’s something that’s been on our minds for a while,” Krisch said.

Last year, Krisch heard about a program called Neighborhood Assist through State Farm. The program is a social media-based community aid effort to help fund eligible projects around the country.

Krisch, who was the middle school principal at the time, applied online, and with help from physical education teachers Kathy Baird and Buddy Johnson, she campaigned to get votes for the project on Facebook.

“It was such a community effort, where they were our campaigning teachers by recruiting kids to vote online, and everyone was spreading the word and really enthusiastic about it,” Krisch said. “The support was unbelievable, and I didn’t really think much of it at the time.”

Last spring, her application secured the No. 6 spot among 40 winners. By the summer, the district was granted a check that allowed the school to come up with a plan for the walkway. It will be constructed to the east of the school near the baseball field.

Krisch will present the drawings to the board at its April 1 meeting. The board will vote on it at a later meeting.

On Thursday, Chuck Thompson, of Nittany Engineers, which donated drawing services free of charge, submitted the blueprints for the trail, Krisch said.

“Now we’re just reviewing things and tweaking things before we present it,” Krisch said. “We’re pretty happy about it.”

In its third year, the Neighborhood Assist program is accepting up to 4,000 submissions and will seek 200 slots to compete for 40 $25,000 grants, said State Farm spokeswoman Anna Bryant. The deadline is March 23.

“The goal is to help worthy projects get done,” Bryant said. “These are projects that will likely help make the community a better place.”

The original goal was to make a mile-long trail around the entire middle school, but the $25,000 grant wouldn’t cover the whole project, Krisch said.

“I think it will be good as is, but if we look to the future, I’m sure we can expand on it if we get the money to do so,” Krisch said. “The main mission is for the trail to be used by the public and students, to create a healthy and safe place to be outdoors.”

For example, Johnson’s and Baird’s physical education students use bikes as part of the class, and the trail would provide a safer space.

Krisch added that the community already walks indoors. During the winter, the YMCA holds a walking program from 6 to 8 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the middle school.

And middle school students host an annual walkathon to raise money for the Make-A-Wish foundation. Other groups, Krisch said, use the middle school property for community races as a start and finish line, and the walking trail could provide an additional resource for those community events.

“The school would become a focal point for the community and extend its impact beyond the classroom doors,” Krisch said.