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Fit Fest celebrates PATH milestone

Fit Fest
Sep. 08, 2013 @ 10:15 PM

HUNTINGTON -- Ken and Sharon Ambrose saw several years of widespread community support for a pedestrian and biking trail named after their son reach another milestone Sunday.

During the fifth annual Fit Fest at Ritter Park, runners who competed in the 10K race got to use the Harveytown section of the Paul Ambrose Trail for Health, which was among the first three sections built this year.

Fit Fest is hosted yearly in the park on the Sunday nearest the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It raises money for the Paul Ambrose Trail for Health (PATH). The trail is named for a Barboursville High and Marshall med school graduate who was a rising star in Washington, D.C., in the field of public health when his life was cut short on Sept. 11.

Fit Fest honors Ambrose by raising money for a cause that was dear to him: fighting obesity. Along with races for kids and adults, the event featured a climbing wall, face painting, exercise stations, music and more.

"In a sense, the trail is a living memorial to Paul, and to see it come together like it has over the past year feels good," Ken Ambrose said. "It really feels good."

"They look great," Sharon Ambrose said of the completed sections. "Some of it is located in areas where people otherwise don't have easy access to walking trails, and that's wonderful."

The first phase of PATH included a half-mile trail that linked Harveytown Park to the western end of the Ritter Park walking trail, a 1.25-mile trail that runs from the Guyandotte boat ramp to the Washington Boulevard Bridge in Altizer, and a three-mile section along the top of the earthen levee from 3rd Street West to Westmoreland. The latter section is almost completed.

Cassey Bowden, marketing manager for the Nick J. Rahall Transportation Institute, the lead agency of PATH, said Fit Fest's fundraising goal this year was $110,000. She expected donations received at the event Sunday to help reach that goal.

While all donations to PATH normally are an 80/20 split between construction and maintenance costs, all money raised from this year's Fit Fest will go toward transforming an old rail bridge that spans the Guyandotte River in Guyandotte into a pedestrian bridge. CSX Transportation donated the bridge to PATH in April. Officials say the pedestrian bridge will provide a better link between Huntington's Highlawn neighborhood and Guyandotte.

Tony and Heather Wheeler of Huntington brought their 7-year-old twin sons, Oakley and Vance, to Fit Fest for the second consecutive year because they like how the event unites the community against obesity in a fun way.

"We like to come to any event that teaches our kids about health and treating their bodies well," Tony Wheeler said.

Follow H-D reporter Bryan Chambers on Facebook or Twitter @BryanChambersHD.

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