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Church leader lauds community, personal benefits of local trails
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Dan Walden, director of youth and children’s ministries at First Presbyterian Church, gains community, physical, and spiritual benefit from walking and voluntarily blowing debris off the Cricket Frog Trail. - photo by Submitted Photo

COVINGTON, Ga. - Dan Walden, director of youth and children’s ministries at First Presbyterian Church, loves sidewalks and trails. He loves them because of what they offer his community as well as what they offer him personally. Walden and his family have lived in Covington since 1993. 

“Who was it, Frost, who said good fences make good neighbors?” Walden said. “You know I think good trails make good neighbors. I love the community aspect of walking and biking in a town that is walking and biking friendly. I think having those resources, sidewalks and trails makes us a better community. It’s what connects us.

“When we are on trails we are necessarily passing each other. I can’t walk past someone without greeting them; even strangers. There are people I know by face that I see walking three or four times a week. I still do not know their names, but we greet each other like we are old friends. I think trails are just so utterly important. I’ll always quietly advocate for trails.”

For Walden personally, sidewalks and trails offer him opportunities to give back to his community through volunteerism as well as to improve and maintain his health. 

“I had a shoulder injury about two and a half years ago,” Walden said. “So about two years ago, after I completed my surgery and rehab, I started carrying my handheld blower out on the Cricket Frog Trail to blow off debris, partly as a service to the community but partly also as a way to continue to strengthen my shoulder.” 

His volunteer service is physical and spiritual therapy. “There is something spiritual about this solitary activity of cleaning up for guests,” he said. “I like for the trail to be clean because it looks nice and also because I like for it to be safe; free from obstacles. I get out there once a week and just do it. I quite enjoy cleaning the trail.”  

Walden also benefits from the exercise he gets on sidewalks and local trails. He said, “I have been a big man my whole life. I was a fat kid and morbidly obese for a lot of years.” But about two years ago he changed his diet, started walking, and has since lost 130 pounds. Like Eastside High School teacher Randy Norman, Walden credits sidewalks and local trails with saving his life. 

“I don’t like just walking, I like walking in a neighborhood,” Walden said. “I like waving at folks. I like walking down the street and having people honk and knowing that there are my friends. I love walking all the trails, but I love especially walking in town.”

He and his wife, Perri, walk and cycle together. Walden said, “It is as much a part of our daily rhythm of life as eating and sleeping. When you raise kids you have a project to work on together and now that we are done with that, this is something we can do together that we love.”

Walden’s ended by stating, “I would never have put in all the miles I have put in on the streets on a treadmill.” That is because he does not find the same level of fellowship and connection when he is on a treadmill. Also, walking on sidewalks and trails does not require a lot of planning or logistics. “We just walk out the door,” Walden said.

This is the second in a series of stories about how local citizens use and appreciate Newton County’s multi-use recreational trails. If you know a regular trail user or someone with a good “trail story,” please drop Newton Trails a line at