The Lawrence-Hopewell Trail Walking Club has monthly walks slated for each second Saturday.

Summer is here, and with warm, sunny weather on the way, the Lawrence Hopewell Trail has a new initiative for locals to take advantage of.

On Saturday, May 11, The LHT Saturday Morning Walking Club gathered to take a four-mile neighborhood walk up Gordon Avenue and on to the town’s Village Park. The LHT Saturday Morning Walking Club’s first walk took place on Saturday, April 13, ETS campus off Carter and Rosedale Roads, and LHT will host walks each second Saturday of the month.

Becky Taylor, co-president of the LHT Saturday Morning Walking Club, shared that the goal of this new initiative is to encourage the public to use the trails.

“Once we had some trails for people to actually go out on, we have been very interested in making sure that we get people to come out to the trail,” said Taylor, “because if they see it and they enjoy it, then they’ll want to come back.”

Taylor, a longtime member of a book club, and shared that “it is just so much fun to see the same people every single month.” She knows first-hand how having a common connection can bring people together, and “over the years become really good friends [with members of her book club].”

This gave her the idea to pair the LHT and a club that can bring the community together. “I thought to myself, why don’t we start a walking club,” said Taylor. She enjoys walking, and figured it would be a perfect way to meet new people and get some exercise in.

The first step in establishing the walking club started with developing a list of family and friends interested in walking alongside them.

“The first thing we decided once we knew we were going to have the Saturday Morning Walking Club was to reach out to [people who had expressed interest in LHT] and invite them, and we also invited the public.”

There is a lot of ground for the walking club to cover. The LHT is an initiative that began in 2001, and has grown ever since. “This has been a long journey as we’ve been working to create what has ended up being a 22 mile loop,” said Taylor about the progress LHT has made since it first started.

Taylor hopes to encourage the public to see how beautiful and useful the trails are, and how they are a great asset to the Lawrence, Hopewell, and other surrounding communities.

“We’ve always had two goals: to build a biking and walking trail…and the other was to really enhance our community and enable people to get out in nature and really travel in something other than their cars to see this beautiful area that we live in,” said Taylor.

This trail that goes through Lawrence and Hopewell Township are open to kids, families, bicyclists, joggers, hikers, commuters and the general public. It takes 2-3 years to build a segment to the trail, and after over a decade, the trail is almost complete. Community members connected and love the LHT are looking forward to encouraging more people to use it.

“I was really interested in how to get people more engaged [with the LHT trails] on a regular basis,” Taylor sai.

Since each walk will be three to four miles, it will take time before the walking group covers the entire 22-mile trail. Each month, the walking group will release their plans for the next walk and reveal the section where the walk will take place. “The point of it is to go to a different part of the trail every single time we walk,” Taylor said. “I’m hoping people will come back again and again and we do get to know each other. “

“It’s long enough that you feel like you’ve had a nice vigorous walk, but it’s not so long that you’re exhausted.” Walks are expected to take between an hour to an hour and a half.

Talking and learning more about the trails as you go may make the walk go faster, too. “We chit chat along the way and we learn about each segment of the trail and learn more about each other,” Taylor said.

The walking club will also be forging its own path on the LHT, and according to Taylor, “[they’ll] be making changes…and we’ll be enhancing existing routes,” too.

The LHT has already seen their numbers increase from the first to the second monthly walk. “The first time we walked, I think there was about 21 people, and this time it was closer to 30 people,” said Taylor, “a lot of people did come back. It was great.”

“We take picture as we go along and we tell stories, we’ve gotten a couple people more involved with the trail than they have been,” according to Taylor. “People are starting to bring other family members and friends along with them.”

“I think everybody who has come out is thrilled,” said Taylor about the feedback she’s received from walkers. “It’s fun…it’s not a heavy lift.”

“There are many people I have never met before, “ shared Taylor, “ and that’s really fun.” She also mentions that other members of the board join the walks, too.

Walkers are also welcome to bring their furry friends along with them, and according to Taylor, and some walkers have brought their dogs along already. Dog walking is a popular on the trails, and walkers can now walk their dogs and enjoy the company of the walking club.

Overall, Taylor is looking forward to seeing the walking club grow and showing new walkers the beauty of the LHT.

“We’d love for people to come out and enjoy the trails, we’ve been working on it for a long time now and we’re hoping more people will see it for the first time or the twentieth time and then really start using it on a regular basis, because that’s what it’s there for.”