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A team from the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps will call Elizabethtown home for the next month.
The group, which consists of eight members split evenly between men and women and one team leader, are working on service projects in the city in coordination with the Lincoln Trail District Health Department and other agencies, including the Hardin County Cooperative Extension Service and the city of Elizabethtown.
The team, based out of Vicksburg, Miss., is constructing a half-mile trail around the exterior of Valley View Education Center and will assist in building a community garden for residents in the Haycraft neighborhood.
Once their month in Kentucky ends, the team plans to return to Vicksburg to work on that city’s military park, said assistant team leader Coty Brennan. It is their first major project as a team, they said.
The team took advantage of the warm weather Tuesday to start attacking the trail, which was being dug out by a piece of Bobcat equipment. The team followed behind with hand tools.
Aaron Albert, who serves as the team’s physical trainer, said the group will tighten up the borderlines of the trail, making sure it is wide enough and deep enough to hold a layer of gravel and limestone several inches thick.
Likewise, the group will install a slope to avoid the possibility of the trail flooding while making sure it is visually appealing.
Brennan said the team will build signs to post around the trail, which wraps around the education center, following a nearby tree line.
Furthermore, the group intends to disassemble some of the older playground equipment at the center, using salvaged parts to build a new play area on the site, Albert said.
Weather will be a deciding factor in when the trail will be finished and they can move on to the community garden, Albert added.
While the trail will be located at Valley View, Brennan said its purpose is to serve the entire community.
“We want to make it as accessible as possible,” designing it to capably handle strollers or other equipment for families who want to walk the trail, she said.
Albert said the trail helps support a healthier lifestyle.
Elizabethtown is working in partnership with the health department and Extension service to construct a community garden at 306 Haycraft St. expected to hold 30 boxed planting areas with room to expand, said
Amy Aldenderfer, a horticulturist with the Extension service. Hardin Memorial Hospital and Elizabethtown Independent Schools also are lending their support, according to officials.
Aldenderfer said hand tools will be available for use and the project should be up and running by spring.
The garden will be paid for through a grant received by the health department. Stefanie Goff, director of community planning and education for Lincoln Trail District Health Department, said a trail will be built in conjunction with the garden at a cost of about $8,000. The planting boxes, she said, will generate an expense of about $2,500 and be available for individual family use.
The AmeriCorps team consists of individuals 18 to 23 years of age and was secured through a thorough application process that included a site analysis by AmeriCorps officials, Brennan said.
Donny Gill, a Hardin County health educator, said the health department had to secure the Improved Health Outcomes Program grant before pursuing AmeriCorps, but he said the community has responded, “coming out of the wood work” for the service projects. He believes Lincoln Trail may be the first health department in Kentucky to land an AmeriCorps team for a service project.
The team, too, has shown enthusiasm, he said.
“They were awake the first thing in the morning raring to go,” he said.
Gill said he is anxious to see the tangible results of their hard work being displayed in the form of projects locals can use.
The team went through orientation Monday morning before falling into their tasks, meeting with local organizations and getting a taste of life in Elizabethtown.
“It’s a pretty nice, calm city I believe,” Albert said. “Everyone has been so friendly and welcoming. It’s a nice-looking city, too. It’s nice to look at.”
That enthusiasm, Brennan said, has rubbed off.
“Everyone’s been excited to have us here and we’re pretty excited too,” she said.
Marty Finley can be reached at 270-505-1762 or email@example.com.