Courtesy of Sara VandenBroek

A wellness trail will be built in the space between two county buildings in Seneca County.

February 25, 2018

Cornell Students Design Wellness Trail for Seneca County Community

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The design organization Design Connect has been selected to help implement a new wellness trail in Seneca County to improve the quality of life and safety for employees.

The idea for a wellness trail was proposed after the county moved its public health department and its Office for the Aging to a property east of the county’s office building. The wellness trail will connect the adjacent spaces.

Seneca County Cornell Cooperative Extension selected the group to head the initiative because of their successful working relationship.

“Supporting healthy living is a key mission of Cooperative Extension,” said Averell Bauder, CCE’s executive director of Seneca County. “And having worked with Design Connect on three past projects, it seemed a good fit for their mission and skills.”

Over the course of Fall 2017, Design Connect conducted site visits and community input meetings and utilized the results of a wellness survey given to county employees. As many local businesses are in the area, employee needs and desires motivated the design.

Sara VandenBroek grad led the Design Connect project team and presented her trail plan to the county’s board of supervisors on Feb. 13.

“One of the biggest employee concerns was safety,” VandenBroek told the Sun. “There wasn’t really a safe place for them to walk during their breaks, during lunch or even just to get from the one building to the other. People would just have to walk on the street.”

Through input from likely trail users, VandenBroek designed an outdoor wellness area that includes a dog park, picnic area, meditation space, benches and other amenities along the proposed half-mile route.

“As designers, we made use of the natural features in the space, including a few very nice ponds,” she said. “We staged the meditation area to give people a nice space to look at the water, enjoy the view and decompress.”

The trail will welcome staff and visitors to exercise, according to Design Connect’s project blog.

“Having a trail like this provides a space for inpatients from some of the nearby nursing centers to be able to go outside and walk,” VandenBroek told The Sun. “It will allow them to heal better. We’re just trying to get people outside to enjoy the light and the trees, to calm down, to enjoy and, most of all, to become healthier individuals.”

Other potential features along the gravel pathways include exercise stations, additional trees and a covered pavilion for musical performances, according to VandenBroek’s final report.

A “Friends of the Wellness Trail” group will promote trail usage, manage the community’s garden plots, sponsor events and raise funds for amenities.

VandenBroek and her team presented an “ideal” budget of $340,579 and an “alternative” budget of $162,448 to county officials on Feb. 13. The Greater Rochester Health Foundation and M&T Bank both offered support for the project that should be completed in phases over the next two years.

Future plans could include an extension of the trail through the Waterloo and Seneca Falls communities, possibly connecting to the Cayuga-Seneca Canal Trail and the Empire State Trail. For now, the first phase awaits Seneca County Board approval. According to Bauder, CCE will push the project as a community priority.