walking girl

To promote physical activity and safety in the community, Active Southern West Virginia has partnered with Beckley Mayor Rob Rappold to host a "Walk with the Mayor" event next week. 

The walk will be held Friday, May 10 at 5 p.m. on the Lewis McManus Trail, also known as the Beckley Rail Trail. Active SWV staff and volunteers will meet with Mayor Rappold and attendees at the 3rd Avenue parking area. The walk will continue for roughly 1 mile. 

“Encouraging trail use is one way to help ensure trail safety, as the presence of other users helps to increase positive trail activity by bringing communities together and reintroducing neighbors to each other,” Erin Ellis-Reid, Active SWV Community Captain Director, said in a release.

Several violent incidents have been reported on the trail in recent months, but Rappold said the city and the Beckley Police Department are working to ensure safety.

In addition to daily police patrols, Rappold said the city is in the process of securing grants for call boxes and cameras to add on the trail. Lighting has also been upgraded on the trail. 

"We're doing the right things to make the trail more attractive to the people who appreciate it and use it for the right reasons, and to make it less attractive to those who do things we don't like on the trail."

Rappold said serious crimes on the trail receive a lot of attention, but overall, the crime rate on the trail is "miniscule." 

"By continuing to have positive events on the trail, hopefully sooner than later we can improve the image and (show) what a great asset this trail is." 

The Active SWV release said, "Having safe places for physical activity is crucial for our communities in southern West Virginia. The McManus Trail is an asset for being active and for traveling by foot or bike around the city of Beckley."

The nonprofit encouraged users to take safety precautions, just as they would driving down the road or visiting a commuter path in a new city. Active SWV officials encourage trail users to be alert and not distracted by music or their phone; be familiar with the route, such as surrounding streets and businesses; travel with a friend or co-worker; tell someone where they are going if going alone; and report any hazards, people in distress, or odd behavior.

• • • 

Monthly walks with the mayor and other members of city council will continue throughout the summer — Rappold said he hopes to visit all five city wards. 

"The idea originated with Mayor Steve Williams in Huntington," Rappold said. "He was walking through several wards in Huntington with citizens... and it seemed like such a great idea." 

Rappold invites everyone to attend the May 11 walk — simply to enjoy exercise in the outdoors, or to share suggestions and comments on the city.

"I operate with an open door policy," he said. "During walks, if citizens want to chat, ask questions or offer insight on what's going on in their wards, I will gladly accept their suggestions and comments in a joint effort to improve our city." 

Upcoming walk details have not yet been released, but Rappold said he looks forward to the summer-long endeavor. 

"We're all in on this entire effort," Rappold said. "We really want to continue that, and spread it to all five wards."

For more information or to see other Active SWV offerings, visit activeswv.org/events or call 304-254-8488.   

— Email: wholdren@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @WendyHoldren

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