That’s what Wise Primary School principal Susan Mullins said Monday as Tawnya Horne’s fourth-grade class passed her on the school’s new walking trail, which opened Saturday.
“It’s been a vision of Karen Mullins, our gym teacher, since 2016,” Susan Mullins said. “We are part of the Morning Mile program, which gives our students the chance to walk or run each morning before school starts.”
The program, sponsored by Niswonger Children’s Hospital through a grant from retail corporation Kohl’s, has included Wise Primary and several other Southwest Virginia schools since 2016. Since then, Susan Mullins said, students at Wise Primary have walked or run 21,000 miles — about 3,000 miles from circling the earth.
For the first three years of the program, Susan Mullins said, students had to walk across Railroad Avenue to L.F. Addington Middle School’s walking track to get in their morning miles.
“They had to walk across the crosswalk, and that ate up some of their time,” the principal said “Now they have this trail right behind the school. We already had the land here, and we didn’t have to do much to fix things up.”
With grading and paving the trail path and installing fencing around the site, Susan Mullins said the project was a low-cost measure for a more convenient walking trail.
Susan Mullins said the trail’s location behind and above the school provides a bonus for walkers.
“When I came up here, I didn’t realize how good a view of the town you have,” she said, looking out over Wise beyond the downtown area toward the Birchfield and UVa-Wise areas. It’s away from the roads and everything going on downtown, and it’s a place for kids to come.”
Susan Mullins hopes to see a shelter and benches built in the center open area and possibly more playground equipment, too.
The trail also gives students and residents after school hours an additional recreation site along with the school’s Pow Wow Playground, which was built two decades ago, Susan Mullins said.
“It’s a challenge, too,” she said as Horne’s class came out for the trail’s first school day. “The adults at the opening ceremony were huffing and puffing, but the kids were laughing.”