A request for help was all it took for a regional hiking association to develop a relationship with students at one of the smallest schools in the state.
That and the possibility of putting their community on the map and spending time outside instead of in a classroom has now helped foster an even deeper relationship.
The Knobstone Hiking Trail Association is a nonprofit organization whose members are dedicated to the completion, preservation and promotion of the Knobstone Hiking Trail, which begins in Clark County and heads northwest toward Martinsville. The association was formed in 2013 to be a steward of the trail, which is not 100 percent complete.
Medora Community School Corp. is located five miles away from the trail where it runs through the western part of Jackson County.
When Suzanne Mittenthal, a board member of the association, approached Medora social studies and history teacher Pat Bahan to round up a group of students to assist with the trail project, he enthusiastically accepted.
“This is a godsend,” said Bahan, who was in the process of creating a school service project for his students, especially the seniors.
Mittenthal is the association’s project leader for work at the Jackson County Park at Sparksville, which serves as a trailside park with a camping area, water and a picnic area.
She told the Medora students the association needed to build a footbridge to help extend the trail north.
One of the major motivations behind getting the school involved was developing local support for completing the trail in Jackson County, Mittenthal said.
“It’s a common practice for long-distance trails to involve trailside schools in partnerships,” she said. “It can be win-win, with the trail gaining support while students become aware of and involved in projects that connect them to the wider world.”
A couple of months ago, Christy Sener Townsend, an English teacher at Medora, accompanied Bahan to take the current senior class to the park at Sparksville to work on the project.
“I got involved because Mr. Bahan knows that I have a background in community service groups and that this kind of project would be right up my alley,” Sener Townsend said. “We took the seniors, who total about 19, to the project on a Friday, and about two-thirds of the group was able to stay all day. The other third of the students needed to go to their jobs after lunch.”
The three tasks of the class were to build the 16-foot footbridge at the edge of Sparksville, clear a quarter-mile of trail and erect a commemorative bench.
Read the full story in Wednesday’s Tribune and online at tribtown.com.