Public asks for PATH connectors, maintenance

3/11/16 / The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON - Cyclists, runners and walkers had a chance to share their ideas on the future of the Paul Ambrose Trail for Health, or PATH, during a public workshop Thursday night at the Marshall University Memorial Student Center.

Many in attendance said the development of PATH thus far has been outstanding, but they would like to see all of PATH's trails connected.

PATH consists of more than 15 miles of trails, bike lanes and bike sharrows. It provides safe alternative transportation routes throughout Huntington and surrounding areas and serves as an avenue for people to get and stay active.

Zeke Smith, president of Huntington Road Runners, said his group consists of avid PATH users who run through the trail at Spring Hill Cemetery, Washington Boulevard and Ritter Park. The trails are fairly close together but not connected. He said once the PATH trail ends they are forced to make their own routes.

"It seems as if the growth of PATH has been kind of stagnant for the past few years so we would love to see more done with it," Smith said.

"The really frustrating part is that while these trails, for instance Guyandotte, are so beautiful there is no real maintenance being done, which stinks because I know a lot of money was invested in them."

These desires and concerns are nothing new to Amanda Payne, trails program area manager for the Rahall Transportation Institute. She said addressing maintenance responsibilities is a top priority that will be laid out in an updated master plan for PATH.

To complete this master plan, RTI has partnered with the city of Huntington to help determine in what direction PATH will go next. Payne expects to have PATH's master plan complete by the end of June.

They have also partnered with the Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, West Virginia Division of Highways and other entities the trail would run through to form an advisory board focused on creating a clear and concise vision for the future of the trail system.

During the public workshop, 10 large maps were set up on tables throughout the room displaying the 10 neighborhoods of Huntington. Community members where then asked to mark the routes on which they bike, run or walk on a regular basis.

Payne said the feedback will help them determine which additions to PATH would be most beneficial to its users. Some of the expansion and maintenance costs will be funded by a recently awarded Transportation Alternative Programs grant of $500,000.

PATH was named after Dr. Paul Ambrose, a young physician who was killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The Huntington native worked on family health and preventative medicine to fight obesity, and PATH is a way for his efforts to continue to impact the health of Huntington.

His parents, Ken and Sharon Ambrose, have supported PATH since it inception and were in attendance Thursday night at the workshop.

"We are excited to see where things go from here," Sharon Ambrose said. "It's so nice to have this active memorial for our son that has been so well received and used by the community."