By Lynne Adams Barze’
As 2019 opens up and emerges from winter’s lull, walking and biking trails become welcoming sights to families who enjoy exercising together. Not only can parents spend more time with their children, but kids can benefit from an education outside in nature.
A walking workout is one of the simplest and most beneficial forms of exercise that works for most bodies.
Dr. Craig Williams is a sports science lecturer at the University of Exeter. Here’s something he said about walking: “It can improve muscle endurance as well as strength. Especially in the lower body. It is good for bones and improves the body’s cardiovascular system. It also helps boost circulation.”
“Because it is low impact, it does not have the same potential for injury as jogging. Yet it can offer all the benefits,” Dr. Williams added.
There are a number of locations for walking throughout Mississippi — from Corinth, into Greenwood, through Hattiesburg, and down south to Biloxi. A good way to find new spots is to check the website for your city, county, or local tourism bureau. Or, plan a day-trip to walk somewhere new.
Under a 1986 program called the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, 250 miles of rail-trail opened to the public in the U.S. This program provides aid to communities left with no-longer-used railroad lines. Miles of blacktopped and paved roads for walking, biking and dog-walking are developed and landscaped for the free enjoyment of families and individuals. This allows large cities to create usable greenspace through and around urban landscapes.
According to the website for the Conservancy, examples of rails-to-trails projects in Mississippi include the Longleaf Trace, which passes through Forrest, Jefferson Davis and Lamar counties, and the Tanglefoot Trail, which cuts its swath in a more northern part of Mississippi, in the area of New Albany.
Camping trails, on the other hand, travel through national and state parks and work well when enjoyed in connection to extended stays in cabins, campers and pitched tents. Kids learn skills in working with others by aiding their parents with chores. By spending time in nature and using guide books, children can learn about the flora and fauna around them.
Many cities in southern Mississippi — such as Picayune and Biloxi — have resourced land and properties from demolished buildings and excess city land and turned it into dog walking paths and lighted tracks with shaded benches.
Crosby Commons Park is one example. It’s a property acquired by the City of Picayune, where Crosby Memorial Hospital once stood. At the grand opening of its lighted walking track, Transportation Commissioner Tom King was in attendance.
“I’ve always preached and believed in a team effort, and you have a team effort here folks,” King said, as reported on WLOX.
Inner city trails offer shorter paths, with convenient resting and lavatory facilities that make it conducive to the participation of grandparents.
“We provide programs, sports, special events, etc., for Biloxians from birth to senior citizens,” Cheryl Bell, Parks and Recreation Director for the city of Biloxi, explained, of her role in providing such resources for her coast community.
For the ambitious family with outdoor experience, the wilderness trails of forested parks can deliver the most natural beauty and education on wildflowers, indigenous animals and trees.
For the urban-dwelling family with members of various ages and physical abilities and pets, city trails with trash receptacles, manicured gardens, and educational literature can offer a learning as well as physical development experience for the whole family.
Happy “family trails” to you all.
Lynne Adams Barze’ was born in the Faubourg Treme’ of New Orleans. She moved with her husband to Picayune in 1999 and loves the state of Mississippi. Barze’ has penned five novels, freelances for magazines, owns an antique mall, and is a “proud cat parent.” She’s a member of GPAC and the Picayune Writers Group.