This is a letter from Angela Figallo McShane to Turtle Ridge Foundation. We thought it was so passionate and motivating we had to share - please give it a read…
Hi Kyla and Bode, and the Turtle Ridge Foundation team. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart for helping with this Project. BodeFest is two weeks away, and before we all get too busy I want to say Thank you let you know how I think this project will really transform our culture and school into something much greater than it already is. Thank you for helping us!
I've been teaching Phys. Ed. at Profile for 9 years and I really love this community and my job. I found my husband at my school, and I've finally found my home in a small mountain town. When I first moved up here I lived up past your old farm on Streeter Pond Rd. The beauty of this area never ceases to amaze me. I've been having a great time developing the PE program at Profile, but I had noticed there were too many barriers in the way of getting my students outdoors and involved in activities I love to do in my own time up here. To get to any trails or streams, we had to get into a bus and drive. Biking has not been an option in PE since I wasn't comfortable taking beginners along the road which has narrow shoulders and fast moving cars. Even when we would go for walks and runs down the road when all the snow was gone, I didn't feel like it was as safe as it should be for middle school students and students with disabilities. Students always seemed a little isolated or distanced from home, as our school was not physically connected to town. If students missed the bus they were "stuck" without a ride. We never had easy access to our outdoor equipment until just last year, Mr Briere's woodshop class built us an outdoor storage shed for our snowshoes, microspikes and XC skis. Now, with that shed, our trail and biking program in progress I feel we are on the right path to having easy access to outdoor recreation and a wellness lifestyle.
To engage students in a lifetime of physical activity, PE has to be fun, and it can't be a big hassle either. Activity should be part of our lifestyle from cradle to grave. This trail is going to offer students access to wellness walks, running programs, riding for focus biking program, snowshoeing from campus, non-motorized transportation to school (walk/bike/ski) and so many other activities. Recreation programs in the summer will be able to meet at Profile fields for Bethlehem/Franconia combined games. It will give our biology students access to Indian Brook for ecology studies. Students can help build flow trails to the main trail from our student parking lot. All I can see with this trail is the opportunity for students to take more of an active role in their time at Profile, and to enjoy the natural resources surrounding our rural school.
In addition to this trail having a major positive influence on student activities while at Profile, it will have a major influence on tourism and economic development in our region. Bethlehem, Franconia, Easton, Sugar Hill and Littleton will be able to advertise for the "best beginner-friendly multi-use non-motorized year round trail in the North Country." With access from two town centers, all of the businesses in town will be able to market for this recreation opportunity. We are already planning on a "Fall Foliage 10K" benefit race from Bethlehem to Franconia... or Rek`lis Brewery to the Iron Furnace Brewery!
Bode, I also want to thank you for being "just a kid from Easton" who made the most of your time during high school. You trained. You worked hard. You made the most of your environment, and used it to your advantage. I think there's a huge lesson in how you spent your time in high school for our students today. At 9th grade orientation at Tamarack one year, someone pointed out the bench press that you supposedly used to train. I remember thinking that an Olympian was born from that bench press! Students around me looked amazed to see that it didn't take any special equipment to get really strong and win an Olympic medal (although you must have used more than that bench press.) If you can share anything about your time during middle and high school I'd love to share it will my students. I look forward to meeting you in a few weeks.
Kyla, thank you for being so organized and for managing TRF. Thank you for asking questions this past summer during soccer camp, and learning more about our project. You are instrumental in helping us to get this trail built! Thank you for your attention and influence. I am so excited about our partnership.
Below is some information about the project for Bode. I'm also reaching out to a number of companies for potential corporate sponsors. If you could send this email around I'd really appreciate it!
A few years ago a few community members and I started a volunteer group called "Friends of Profile Trails." I wanted to build a Safe Route to School and a few other people also wanted to build safe routes to the elementary schools and beginner friendly commuter trails in our area. We live in a beautiful rural area, but it is not as pedestrian and cycling friendly as we'd like it to be. Specifically, my school has no safe way for students to walk or bike to school, and no trail access from school, which I think is crazy!
So jump ahead a few years of community organizing and gaining momentum for the idea within our community, this past spring I wrote a Title IV A ESSA SSAE (Every Student Succeeds Act, Student Support and Academic Enrichment) Federal grant and awarded my school with $142,360 to build our Safe Route to School! This was a huge endorsement for the project and since then we've gained a lot of momentum. We're hopeful to build this summer. But, we still need funding to pay for permanent easements on private properties and additional construction costs. Local non-profit Turtle Ridge Foundation (Olympian Bode Miller's family) has signed on to help us. BodeFest this year at Cannon Mountain in Franconia, NH is dedicating their proceeds to this project, which is amazing. Turtle Ridge has also helped us set up this fundraising website, see my page below:
On the site you can also see my school's page, and a number of local businesses who have signed on in support of the project. This project is truly a community effort, with local lawyers, surveyors, conservation trusts, and countless volunteer hours put into the project. I'm contacting just about everyone I know to help us spread the word and find corporate sponsors.
Soon, the Ammonoosuc Conservation Trust will have a page dedicated to our project because they are helping us to conserve this trail, and make it last forever. The trail will be about 5 miles long, 6-12' in width. It will connect two villages to school (two villages that send students to our regional school.) The school is 2.5 miles from each town center, and relatively flat from town to town. It might sound like a long way to school but these north country kids are tough! They've grown up in the mountains and 2.5 miles on a bike or XC skis is not a big deal to them to gain some freedom to and from school. For students who have not grown up in families who participate in outdoor activities, it will be the perfect introduction to these awesome lifetime recreation activities. Staff at Profile planning on running a number of aerobic and educational programs on the trail as well.
Since we have a fair number of students who wont be able to afford bikes, I've also applied for Specialized Foundation's Riding for Focus grant. We have moved into the final phase of their competitive grant, and we need to submit a 3 minute video. Whether we get this grant or not, we will be able to offer before/during/after school biking programs for kids using fantastic heart rate monitor technology that I already have at school! If we don't get the grant, Turtle Ridge has already committed to donating 10 Specialized fat bikes and helmets!
Anyways, thanks for reading and please send this email around!
Let me know if you have any questions and please tell everyone I said, Hello!!! Thank you in advance for any support and advocacy!
-Angela or Mrs. McFigs.