I don’t talk much about Huntington on this blog, as was the intention when I started it. As you know, Huntington was named “America’s Unhealthiest City” in 2008, and since then the city has tried to outrun that embarrassing label. I can’t say we’ve completely turned ourselves around, but we have made significant strides:
- The P.A.T.H. (Paul Ambrose Trail for Health), a 26-mile bike and pedestrian pathway that is being constructed, providing free health and recreation for Huntington and surrounding areas. In addition, an annual 5k, 10k and walk (dubbed “Fit Fest”) is held to raise money to continue construction on the trail.
- Jamie Oliver came to our town to film his Health Revolution reality show, building us a state-of-the-art kitchen downtown which provides free healthy cooking classes for people of all ages.
- In general, I see more and more people out walking, running and biking on a daily basis in town.
There is much more, but those are our largest accomplishments.
Surprisingly, Huntington may have one of the best areas I’ve ever seen for outdoor fitness: Ritter Park. I live exactly one block from the park, and it’s my very favorite place. I’ll attempt to give you a ‘virtual tour’ of our lovely park:
When you enter the park at 10th street, the first thing you see is the fountain:
The park is a wide, open grassy area with an awesome playground (trust me, my nephew will. not. leave. it. when he’s visiting) on the East end, and is surrounded by a wide gravel running/walking path that is (I’ve heard) 9/10ths of a mile. If you follow the path under the 8th street bridge:
(There is a path underneath that bride so pedestrians don’t have to cross the road), you will be on the continued path which goes about 1.5 miles to the World War II Memorial Arch located at the intersection of where Ritter Park ends and Memorial Park begins:
On certain holidays, the GHPRD (Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District) hangs a giant flag on the arch. If I run from my front door to the arch and back, I have run exactly three miles. If I continue on the trail through Memorial Park (where my favorite water fountain is located) and back, I’ll have gone about 5 miles.
Backtracking back to the Ritter Park loop, if you don’t go under the bridge to follow the trail to the arch, but rather keep on the trail a bit, you’ll find a set of stone stairs that you can climb which will lead you to this gem:
The Ritter Park Rose Garden! The roses are in bloom Spring – Fall, and it’s seriously breathtaking. You can have your wedding there, and it’s quite cheap, but it doesn’t seat very many people, so it wasn’t an option for us. Perhaps some kind bridesmaid will read this and throw me a bridal shower there.
If you don’t climb the stairs to the Rose Garden, but continue on to the East End of the park again, you can make a right and you will see the tennis courts. There are 4 courts, I think, and they cover two of them for the winter. I don’t play tennis, so I’m not going to spend much time on those. However, after the tennis courts, there is a huge hill which is great for hill sprint repeats!
If you climb the giant hill, at the top on the left is the brand new Huntington Pet Safe Dog Park. Huntington won a contest that was sponsored by Pet Safe which funded $100,000 towards our dog park, and it turned out great. It’s basically a large fenced in area where the dogs can run. There is a doggie drinking fountain, a small dog run, and that’s basically it, but man do the doggies love it.
On the right at the top of the hill is the Ritter Park Ampitheater:
Where outdoor concerts and outdoor theater are held.
And that’s about it! Ritter Park is about the best thing ever, in my opinion. I consider myself very lucky to live one block from such an awesome park where I can run, walk, and interact with other healthy residents of my town.
Recently, Ritter Park was named one of America’s Great Public Spaces by the American Planning Association, along with parks located in Denver, Chicago and Anaheim. I don’t know if the residents of those cities are as pumped about the honor as the residents of Huntington were, but I’m guessing not. It’s great for our small town to be ranked up there with big cities. I truly think that Ritter Park deserves the honor. I run in that park most days of the year, and I never get sick of it.
Question of the Day:
What’s your favorite place to run?