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Texas Helping People Find the Trail to Physical Fitness

State's goal is helping communities develop programs and facilities that support and promote a physically active lifestyle.

Map of TexasFrom Texas Department of Health

Within the 267,277 square miles of Texas are: 122 state recreation parks with more than 1,000 miles of trails; two national parks; five state forests; four national forests; a national seashore; a biological preserve; and uncounted pathways in cities and rural areas.

So why, then, are not more people out walking, biking, jogging, hiking or just strolling?

Perhaps, says Jennifer Smith, director of the Community and Worksite Wellness Program at the Texas Department of Health (TDH), people may not know where these trails are.

Texas Trail Registry Logo
 

With that thought in mind, two years ago TDH began building a database of trails. From the initial 150 entries, TDH now lists more than 450 trails in 89 counties.

"We want people to be aware of what's available, places that they can be out enjoying nature and getting some physical activity, either free or at a low cost," said Mary Guzman, who oversees the TDH registry.

The Texas Trail Registry was started as a project to offer information on public trails by county, from the 25-mile Kiwanis Park Trail in Angelina County to Yoakum County's 1.25-mile Denver City Recreational Trail. Details in the listing include trail name and location, manager, approved activities, estimated difficulty and length, hours, cost, facilities, wheelchair accessibility and scenery.

[An update in 2005 is that the Texas Trails Network (TTN) at http://www.texastrails.org/ has transitioned the inventory of trails to a new trail registry database will include all the trails contained in the former Texas Trail Registry with added enhancements.]

"We provide exposure to trails already built so they can be used more," Guzman said. "In addition, people may pick up ideas about what kinds of trails they can have in their communities. We have resources to help groups who are considering constructing trails."

The registry gives people a chance to find out about trails in their area or in places they may be visiting. "We want people to commit to physical activity and to have healthier lifestyles to prevent chronic disease," Guzman said. "And we certainly want to make it as easy as possible for them to get started and to keep going."

Visiting San Antonio? The Emilie and Albert Friedrich Wilderness Park Trail offers 4.5 miles for walking, jogging, hiking and nature study in a nature preserve with Hill Country scenery, windmill and hilltop views at a moderate level of difficulty. On South Padre Island, look up the Isla Blanca Park Trail, an easy two miles with historic statue and marker, wetlands, ships and dolphins.

In Lubbock, look for the Lubbock Lake Landmark Nature Trails for walking, hiking, nature study and wildflowers of the Llano Estacado. Or in North Texas is the eight-mile Denton Branch Rail Trail along on old MKT railroad for walking, jogging, hiking, road and mountain bicycling, nature study or equestrian activities.

Helping communities develop programs and facilities that support and promote a physically active lifestyle is a basic component of the Community and Worksite Wellness Program. Smith points to the need in Texas to get people up, out and moving.

A 1998 physical activity survey by TDH shows that more than two-thirds of adult Texans are not getting a least 20 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity three times a week - the amount of physical activity recommended for greater health benefits. And 32 percent of adult Texans reported a leading reason for not being more physically active is the lack of enough fitness facilities, sidewalks and bicycle lanes.

The Texas Trail Registry is a great place to get started, Guzman said. But the list is by no means complete. Planners, managers or those who use Texas trails may submit trail information to the registry on-line. People also may add information about trails that are currently listed.

All information is confirmed before being put on the site. The only exclusion is a trail that is for motorized vehicles.

"We are going for physical activity," Guzman said.

For more information, contact Mary Guzman, TDH Community and Worksite Wellness Program, at 512-458-7670; or Emily Palmer, TDH Assistant Public Information Officer, at 512- 458-7400.

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Updated January 1, 2009

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