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Shelby County was one of 38 communities across the state to share $1.8 million in federal grants for recreational trails projects.
Shelby County will receive $42,500 of the $1,849,648, which it will use toward the construction of a youth fitness trail at Red Orchard Park in Shelbyville.
Recipients received award documents Wednesday at a ceremony in Frankfort hosted by Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear.
The funding comes from the Federal Highway Administration’s Recreational Trails Program, and applicants included city and county governments as well as state and federal agencies.
Shelby County’s award falls somewhere in the middle of the grant allotments, with several communities receiving $100,000 grants and others substantially less.
Shelby County Parks and Recreation Director Clay Cottongim said the plan is to build six nature pods for kids along a mowed, 2-mile trail at Red Orchard.
Shelby County Judge-Executive Rob Rothenburger said it’s exciting to him that the concept of having nature-oriented pods along the trail is unique to Kentucky – and Shelby would be a leader in that.
“It’s so cool that we will be one of the first, maybe the first, in the state to have this,” he said.
The concept of play trails comes from a company called GameTime and features several nature-oriented themes, of which six are planned for Red Orchard: ants, birds, butterflies, pond life, spiders and the forest floor.
Rothenburger said he thinks it’s a great concept for parks.
“It promotes a healthy lifestyle, and it also ties in with learning about nature and the educational experience that goes along with it,” he said. “And that’s what Clarence Miller wanted.”
Miller, who donated his family farm to establish Red Orchard Park, died last year, and his nephew, Lee Miller, who has been volunteering at the park, helping with various projects, said he was glad to hear about the grant.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “It’s everything that Clarence dreamed of for the public to enjoy the place. We’ve had years of enjoyment out here, and now everybody else can have the opportunity to enjoy it, too.
“Clarence passed away last fall, but he got to see some stuff get started. It meant a lot to him, and it does to me, too.”
Cottongim said the grant will get the project started, but he needs to match that amount to complete it, which he hopes to do by this summer.
“We would appreciate cash donations, or if a business wants to sponsor a pod, then we could also do that,” he said.
A Shelbyville business owner, Bridwell Terhune, is working to install adult exercise equipment in the park, which he plans to coordinate with the trail project. He would install that equipment next to the children’s pods, so that adults can exercise while their kids are playing.
Rothenburger said he hopes that receiving the grant will inspire people to donate to Terhune’s cause.
“As kids are playing, then mom and dad can get some exercise, too, and we hope that this [grant] will inspire people to help with his [Terhune’s] project,” he said.
How to help
Send donations to:
Shelby County Parks
Care of the Red Orchard Fitness Trail
717 Burks Branch Road
Shelbyville, Ky. 40065