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Community stepping forward with trail project





ELLIS -- Dennis Schoenthaler, an avid walker, saw the need for a walking trail in the Ellis community. Unfortunately, Schoenthaler didn't live long enough to see his dream come to fruition, as he died May 20 of cancer.

However, community members hope to complete the Dennis Schoenthaler Memorial Walking Trail just a year after his death.

Ellis Alliance Director Dena Patee said Schoenthaler would walk 5 to 7 miles a day on city streets and thought a trail would be useful for the community.

"He said, 'I want to do a walking trail, and I want to have it go by (Big Creek) because there's no place to walk,' " Patee said.

The Community Foundation of Ellis decided to take on the project this fall, and with the help of Fort Hays State University leadership studies teams, Patee said she hopes to have the project completed in May.

The half-mile trail will be built in Creekside Park.

Concrete work began in the fall, but much of the trail still needs to be finished.

Patee said she hopes directional lights, flowers and some multi-functional fitness stations, which could be used for pull-ups, push-ups and other aerobic exercises, will be placed along the trail.

According to estimates, Patee said the concrete trail will cost approximately $13,000, and lights could cost between $28,000 and $29,000. With the equipment and landscaping, the trail could cost a total of approximately $60,000.

So far, Patee said nearly $16,000 has been raised for the walking trail between fundraisers, Schoenthaler memorial gifts, funding by the Community Foundation of Ellis and a United Way grant.

Patee said they applied for another grant for approximately $15,000, but she hasn't heard whether they got it yet.

"We are still going to need donations for it," Patee said. "Even if we get $15,000 through the grant, we are going to need more to get the lighting in and some of the landscaping things."

The first Leadership 310 team worked on the project during the fall semester, and a new six-member team took it over this semester.

Team member Lamar Leon lives in Ellis, and he said he walks his dog in town and agreed there is a need for the trail.

"You have to do it on the street," Leon said. "It'd be nice to have somewhere to walk daily."

In addition to the trail, Leon said the team is planning to have a health fair to raise awareness about fitness, which was one of the main reasons why the team members chose to take on the task.

"Everybody chose it because we wanted to get out and raise awareness about health in the community," he said.

Patee said they are planning for the concrete to be poured and flowers to be planted during March and April, and community volunteers would be appreciated.

"We don't want one guy to be out there doing all the digging himself," Patee said. "We want everybody out there working on it so we can do it in a very short amount of time."

Those wishing to volunteer or donate should contact Patee at (785) 726-2660.