TOANO—Nancy Lassiter can't wait for students to return to school and see her summer project, as well as for them to run on it, walk on it and ride bikes on it.
The Toano Middle School teacher started a run club for students at the school three years ago, but there was just one problem—no place to run. A year later she embarked on fundraising for a trail that was put in this summer.
"We were the only middle school without somewhere to run," said Lassiter, an avid runner. "So I was just a little bitter. I really wanted this trail.
"After a year of running through the grass, twisted ankles and mud, I said if I'm going to continue to do this, I want to have a gravel track."
Two years of fundraising through the school's PTA, half the money from two 8K races, a grant from Walmart and a private donor ended up totaling right around $6,500. Lassiter started planning with a contractor this spring, and the work was done from June 23 to 27.
She said the enthusiasm of the many students for the run club and the races motivated her.
The result is a half-mile gravel loop, three feet wide, that runs behind the school and is connected through the middle as a figure eight. That configuration will be used by the school's bicycle safety classes to learn proper cycling rules of the road, said Toano Middle School athletic director Bingo Brungot.
Other school uses for the trail will range from the school's sports teams using it for conditioning, to teachers using it to exercise during planning periods and lunch time.
"It was Nancy's brainchild," said Brungot, who also teaches health and physical education at the school, and coaches girls basketball at Toano Middle and Warhill High. "She worked two years to get it done by hosting race and trying to get private funds, people to donate time.
"So she's really worked hard, deserves all the credit. We're going to benefit from it as a school."
Janice Kailos coordinates the after school challenge clubs through her job as coordinator for wellness and community outreach with the School Health Initiative Program for Williamsburg-James City County schools. She helped Lassiter with the Walmart grant, and was a big supporter of the trail project.
Kailos said there are a lot of after school running clubs, but one of the problems is finding safe and accessible places for students to run.
"Toano was one of those schools where they really didn't have any place to run, and we really didn't want them running in neighborhoods and in street," Kailos said. "This trail is really going to help with the running club at Toano, both the boys and girls clubs."
The trail will also be open to the community, and visitors are encouraged.
In fact Lassiter can't wait to see people out there enjoying it. She has run on it herself, weed whacked it and will be proudly presenting it when school reopens.
"Running—once you put it out there and let kids know you're willing to provide an atmosphere for them," Lassiter said. "That just drove me even harder to get it done before I retire."
Williams can be reached by phone at 757-247-4644.
The new half-mile trail looping around the back of Toano Middle School, 7817 Richmond Road, Toano, is open to the public.