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Calling the Riverwalk Trail one of Danville’s greatest assets, Danville leaders gathered on Friday to mark the completion of a new trailhead. The trailhead, which begins at the intersection of Patton and Bridge streets, provides trail users with another access point to the trail on the south bank of the Dan River, and it directly connects the river with the River District.
Danville leaders also praised the trail as a “beautiful place to get healthier.” Toward that goal, Get Fit Dan River Region used the ceremony to launch a 50,000-pound weight loss challenge. Events are planned for the next 90 days to encourage citizens in Danville, Pittsylvania County and Caswell County, N.C., to integrate physical activity as a fun part of life.
“This (trail) is one of Danville’s greatest assets. We are encouraging you to get out and use it,” Danville Vice Mayor Dr. Gary Miller said in opening remarks at the ceremony. “Winter is over. … No more cold weather. No more ice. You have no excuse to not use this trail.”
The trailhead was part of the streetscape project that led to the design and construction of the JTI Fountain and Main Street Plaza. A celebration was held on Wednesday to reveal the fountain and give the community its first opportunity to enjoy the plaza.
The new trailhead is located just below the fountain and plaza.
Karl Stauber, president of the Danville Regional Foundation, said the new trailhead is important because “it is what connects the river and the district. This is the gateway. … It allows us to talk about the river and the River District as assets – building on the past but creating the future.”
In addition to the streetscape improvements that have taken place along Main Street, Stauber pointed to the recent the opening of the Digital Dome Theater and the new Danville Family YMCA that will be completed later this year.
“This trail is a great symbol of our region,” Stauber said. “We didn’t start off and do it all at once. We’re not done yet.”
Later this month, the city expects to solicit bids for continued expansion of the Riverwalk Trail. This expansion involves construction of a pedestrian lane on the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Bridge to connect the walking trail on the north side of the Dan River to the Main Street Plaza and the walking trail on the south side of the river. Construction could begin as early as July.
The Riverwalk Trail, currently spanning 8.5 miles, has longed served as a popular amenity for residents and visitors who walk, jog and ride bicycles along the trail on both banks of the river and through parks, historic sites and businesses.
“It is also a beautiful place to get healthier,” Stauber said. “Our region has major health challenges. There is no question about that.”
The purpose of the Get Fit Challenge is to establish a vision for a healthier community and to pursue that vision in a fun way.
Stephanie Ferrugia directs the Get Fit Dan River initiative. She said a new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation shows two-thirds of local residents are overweight and one-third of that number are obese.
Ferrugia says the region ranks near the bottom of the list in terms of obesity. Over the past four years, Pittsylvania County “has been slipping steadily, ranking at 91 out of 133 localities.” Danville ranks 121st on the list, while Caswell County placed 62nd out of about 100 localities in North Carolina.
The group’s goal is for area residents to sign up and lose a total of 50,000 pounds over the next three months. Anyone can participate.
As part of the challenge, the organization will provide workout videos featuring celebrities in the community. These celebrities, along with local fitness trainers, will demonstrate step by step how to practice basic exercises that can be done anywhere anytime. No equipment is required.
To participate or learn more about the challenge, go to www.getfitdanriver.org.