Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine student Caroline Loyola recently found a new way to relax after a long day of classes and studying.
“My fiancé and I take the dog on the trail all the time,” she said while standing on a shared-use walking/biking trail recently opened near the college. “It’s a really good way to take a break from studying while it’s not too hot yet. It’s been mostly a nice mental break.”
City, ACOM, and other business officials gathered Thursday at the trailhead near the medical school to officially celebrate the trail’s installation. The project has been a few years in the making as the city officially committed $169,000 to the initiative in December 2016.
A $400,000 federal grant from the Transportation Alternatives Program paid the majority of the costs for the trail, which covers almost a mile between ACOM and the former Dothan Village property. The trail connects the school with several retail developments near the intersection of Ross Clark Circle and U.S. Highway 84 East, another benefit for students.
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“I know someone who had to go to Walgreen’s the other day, and they walked down instead of driving,” Loyola said. “It’s made the pharmacy and the restaurants more accessible for us.”
Accessibility and connectivity provide the main reasons city leaders pursued the idea after ACOM dean Dr. Craig Lenz pitched the project to them. The project began during Mike Schmitz’s tenure as mayor.
“Connectivity is an A priority (for officials),” he said. “This opens our students up to our city and opens our city to our students.”
Loyola expressed a desire to see the trail extended toward the downtown area, a goal for officials as well. Schmitz said the trail provided “just a beginning” to increasing the number of pedestrian-friendly routes.
Other ACOM students were pleased to see the trail provides benefits to the community as a whole and not just them.
“I do see a lot people walking on the side of the road in the mornings,” said Drew Connor. “Now they have a trail that’s good for that. People cross the road every morning on (my) way in, so it’s been good to have this.”
“It’s more safe and dedicated instead of having to walk alongside the intersection,” added Michael Miley.
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