Opening the Trail (from left) Delta State University Healthy Campus/Community Initiative Assistant to the Coordinator, Lyn Hubbard; Delta State University Coordinator for the Healthy Campus/Community Initiative Dr. Butch Caston; Delta State University Director of Recreation & Fitness Center Doug Pinkerton; Delta State University Dean of College of Education Dr. Leslie Griffin; Superintendent of Cleveland School District Dr. Jacquelyn Thigpen; Delta State Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Wayne Blansett; Delta State University Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Ann Lotven; Mayor of Cleveland Billy Nowell; President of Delta State University Dr. John Hilpert; Director, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation Wade Overstreet; Delta State University Chair Division of Health, Physical Education and Recreation Tim Colbert; and Delta State Physical Facilities Landscape Architect and Project Manager Linda Smith all participate in cutting the ribbon to open the new fitness trail on the Delta State University campus.
The band played and students from elementary school to college cheered as Delta State University faculty and staff gathered with Cleveland city officials and community members to celebrate the opening of a new fitness trail with a ribbon cutting ceremony today. The event marked the first phase of the “Healthy Campus/Community Initiative” which seeks to build a campus and community culture of wellness while addressing the unique health challenges of the Delta.
The initiative is led by Delta State’s College of Education, which was awarded a $700,000 grant from the Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation. Delta State’s faculty and students – working together with the Cleveland School District, the City of Cleveland, the medical community, and the Blue Cross/ Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation – will work to improve the health and wellness of Cleveland and Bolivar County.
“The fitness trail was designed to meet the physical activity needs of the Delta State campus and Cleveland community. By design, it is sustainable—and offers students and community members the opportunity to walk year-round and for years to come. The entire community has been watching its development—and can’t wait to ‘hit the trail’ soon,” said Dr. Leslie Griffin, dean of the College of Education. In her remarks, Griffin also thanked Roy Collins Construction for their diligence in completing the project on time with the challenges of recent weather conditions.
Delta State University President, Dr. John M. Hilpert, began the ceremony by welcoming the crowd before issuing a challenge to Cleveland Mayor, Billy Nowell. “I, and the 10 members of my cabinet pledge to walk or run 250 miles which is equal to the distance from here to the Blue Cross/Blues Shield Foundation of Mississippi headquarters and back, beginning October 1,” said Hilpert. “I challenge Mayor Nowell and 10 participants of his choosing to do the same. We will race to see which group can finish the distance the fastest.”
Mayor Nowell gladly responded, “I consider myself a pretty competitive person, so I will accept President Hilpert’s challenge and we look forward to the friendly competition.”
The opening of the fitness trail is the first component of the initiative which includes the construction of a community walking track on the Delta State campus, construction of Project Fit America activity equipment at all six elementary schools in the Cleveland School District, biometric screenings for Delta State students and faculty at the beginning and end of the fall semester, development of a new health curriculum and training for area teachers, and the development and distribution of nutritional toolkits to area schools. Physical education students from Delta State will also provide support for the Project Fit America equipment in the schools.
Tim Colbert, chair of the Division of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation at Delta State, encouraged the audience to take advantage of the new track. "The Fitness Trail is a significant piece of the “Healthy Campus/Community Initiative” that will hopefully be utilized to the fullest by the faculty, staff, and students of Delta State University and the entire Cleveland Community,” Colbert said.
“The Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation is proud to be a part of today’s celebration of this community-wide effort,” said Wade Overstreet, director of the Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation. “This fitness trail will enable Delta State and the town of Cleveland to get healthy in a beautiful environment. We are pleased with the progress of this partnership and look forward to further success in the future.”