Hiking leads to improved physical and mental health.

That’s a message from the chairman of the Leavenworth County Trails Association.

Steve Bray is a proponent of the benefits of hitting the trails and is leading efforts to expand the activity in the Leavenworth area.

“I am happy to say that I am living proof of the positive healing effects of hiking on PTSD and one’s physical and mental state,” Bray said.

Bray announced this week that work will resume at the VA Memorial Park Trails and Gardens.

The trails and gardens are located north of the Eisenhower VA Medical Center’s main hospital.

Bray will be leading volunteer work groups in trail restoration on Saturday mornings.

Work begins at 8 a.m. Saturday. Volunteers are asked to bring gloves, water and gardening tools.

“We need people who are passionate about creating trails, protecting the ecosystem and have a knowledge of trees and plant species,” Bray said.

He said work projects include erosion prevention, creek maintenance, bridge building and trail maintenance.

Restoration work began 18 months ago on the VA trails, Bray said.

“I highly encourage everyone to get involved,” Bray said. “If you can’t join us on Saturdays, please feel free to hike the trails anytime. It’s open to everyone.”

Bray soon will be leading a class for beginning or even advanced hikers. The class will focus on backpacking, hiking, trail safety, survival techniques, shelter building and proper gear and clothing.

The first class will be held May 5 at the VA trails from 8-10 a.m. There will be a total of eight classes.

The class sessions will culminate with a local camping trip.

Bray is asking for a $25 donation for adults. Children who are accompanied by an adult can take the class for free.

He said the money will be used to purchase materials for the class.

Another initiative at the park is the installation of personalized trail markers. For a $40 donation, people can have a sign installed for loved ones. Signs can also be produced with the military biographies of people, Bray said.

For more information, call 913-705-9606.