With limited places to go during the COVID-19 pandemic, the community is turning to the local trails, according to Kokomo Parks and Recreation Department Superintendent Torrey Roe.
Although trail usage has been popular for years, Roe said the warmer temperatures during the stay-at-home orders were drawing even more people to the trails. According to Roe, this has been encouraging to see.
“The trail use is significantly important, number one, for exercise. More importantly, I think (it's important for) mental health. As people are able to get outside and utilize the trail system, get fresh air, it’s kind of natural for them to get out and want to exercise. It’s just so encouraging to get out and hear the birds chirp and enjoy nature,” Roe said.
The Kokomo Parks and Recreation Department currently is working to install trail cameras that will help track the amount of traffic on the trails.
There are three trails that run through Kokomo: the Industrial Heritage Trail, Walk of Excellence, and the Cloverleaf Trail. All trails are paved and well-lighted with the only major difference being location, Roe said. The Industrial Heritage Trail runs north to south, connecting to the Nickel Plate Trail. The Walk of Excellence runs east to west along Wildcat Creek, and the Cloverleaf Trail follows the rail line that intersects the two other paths, providing a loop where they all intersect with over 12 miles of trail.
Although outdoor exercise has been encouraged by government leaders during the shutdown, state restrictions required the closure of outdoor entertainment areas, which included basketball courts, tennis courts, softball diamonds, playgrounds, and skate parks.
To discourage residents from using these areas in Kokomo, Roe said some areas were locked or barricaded. While it has worked in some places, the basketball courts have been harder to keep people from using.
“If we have found that what we have put up there didn’t work, we’ve gone to the next step and just removed the basketball rim,” Roe said.
The superintendent encouraged people to follow social distancing guidelines and reminded them that there still are places that are safe to use. In addition to the trails, he encouraged fishing, canoeing, and kayaking in the reservoir or finding green space to enjoy.
“There’s plenty of green space to take up and just play in … explore different areas that they may not have gone to before because, if you were a frequenter of the playground, maybe you go to the reservoir now and take a trip through the nature trail. Just find something new that you’ve never explored before,” Roe said.
For those new to the trail systems, Roe hoped those people continuing using them long after restrictions are lifted.
“I’m encouraged that we have new trail users every day, and we hope that this is the new norm for them, that they get out and they utilize that trail system, (that) they find importance in it as well. And as we get into what a new norm looks like, I think people are encouraged to get out and exercise and utilize them,” Roe said.