Work continues on an extensive trail system near the Eisenhower VA Medical Center campus.
Steve Bray, chairman of the Leavenworth County Trails Association, said much progress has been made in the development of the hiking trails at VA Memorial Park, located adjacent to the VA campus.
Bray said the idea to create a trail system near the VA campus came from Steve Grant, director of the Leavenworth Parks and Recreation Department, and Brian Bailey, parks superintendent of the Leavenworth Parks and Recreation Department.
“They thought those 72 acres would be a fantastic trail system,” Bray said.
Bray said he had an interesting encounter early on at the park with Jim Ruby, then 82 years old and a frequent hiker on the park’s native trails.
“Jim says to me, ‘Let me show you around,” Bray said. “It was that day that I started laying out the trails in my head.”
Work began on the trails in October 2017 to remove brush and has been ongoing ever since.
Approximately six miles of trails have been cleared and prepared. Bray said the goal is to have 20 miles of prepared trails in the park.
Bray said one of the features of the park is that all of the trails are at least 10 feet wide. He said the park features large trees and boulder formations as well as several spring-fed creeks.
Bray said the main trailhead is located just east along the tree line east of the gazebo.
There are five trailheads at the park, including the Marine Corps Force Recon Trail, the Army Ranger Trail, the Navy SEAL Trail, the Air Force Thunderbird Trail and the Coast Guard Coasties Trail.
“The trails are for the novice and the expert,” Bray said.
Bray said work on the trails is performed exclusively by volunteers to include groups from Fort Leavenworth, Scout organizations, college students, churches groups and individuals.
Bray said the trail work will pick up in earnest in the next couple of weeks. Beginning June 1 and running each Saturday at 8 a.m. through November, he will host a workday at the trails.
He said volunteers need to sign a waiver before they begin work and should bring gardening tools such as shovels, weed eaters and chainsaws.
Bray said no work is to be done at the park unless he is present to supervise.
The park is free and open to the public. He said trail markers on the prepared trails will be posted by June 1.
Bray said he has started a not-for-profit organization called Trails 4 Treatment – Hiking for Health & Hope. Bray, a Marine Corps veteran, said part of the reason to develop the trails was to help people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Hiking in nature is great therapy,” he said.
Bray said anyone interested in visiting the trails can call him for a personal tour.
Bray announced there will be a Celebrate Trails Weekend in September on the trails. There will be a trail run on Sept. 14 and a trail hike on Sept. 15. Details will be announced at a later date.
For more information about the trails, call Bray at 913-370-9606.