The Power of Positive Change, The Story Behind the Al Secord Fitness Trail

The Power of Positive Change, The Story Behind the Al Secord Fitness Trail

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The Al Secord fitness trail is a well-known community feature in Spain that many residents use regularly.

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However, in 1993, no such trail existed and residents of Clear Lake and Foster Drive could not safely walk into town if needed. The speed limit was 80 kilometers per hour and there was nothing but a small gravel shoulder. Then there was an incident that prompted one local mother to ask for a change.

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In the spring of 1993, Rosalind Russell and her daughter Katrina, then a little girl, were walking down the hill to do some shopping at the mall. That’s when a large transporter came hurtling down the road so close that Russell had to pick up her daughter and jump to the other side of the railing to avoid being hit. Bruised and shaken from the incident, with a young daughter very upset by the close call, Russell decided to act.

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She wrote a letter to the city council at the time asking why there was no safe sidewalk along the highway when so many Española residents live along Clear Lake Drive and Foster Drive. She pointed out that homeowners along the waterfront pay higher taxes than other individuals within the city and should have equal access to sidewalks for safety when walking on the roads.

She took it a step further and asked then-City Clerk Merwin Sheppard, who was very helpful in walking her through the process of getting in front of the council and bringing her concerns to them in person to tell them her story.

What happened to Russell and her daughter was a close connection that could have ended in unspeakable tragedy. After hearing her story, the council at the time agreed wholeheartedly that there should be some sort of safe walking path or trail connecting the residents of Clear Lake and Foster Drives to the rest of Espanola along that stretch of highway.

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Shortly thereafter, the city began construction of a gravel road with a bridge over Darkie Creek, making it easier and safer for residents to travel back and forth on foot from the Clear Lake area to Española.

More and more residents began to use the trail as a pleasant and brisk walk for daily exercise or just to enjoy the scenery along the walk to the lake. The council also asked at some point to lower the speed limit in the area to further increase safety for pedestrians along the trail.

As time went on, the city recognized the potential for more development of the trail, and the recreation director at the time talked to the council that the trail should be improved and expanded to become a recreational attraction for all residents. So the trail was paved, a viewing platform was built in front of the lake, and over the years the development continued and evolved. There is a nice beach with a children’s playground, fitness equipment, lifeguards and, recently, an inflatable obstacle course for children and adults to enjoy while swimming. All accessible by foot from the Al Secord Fitness Trail, connecting the residents of Española to each other, to the lake and the small subdivision of people who live there.

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The trail was named in honor of Al Secord, a well-known athlete and local hero of Espanola who played for several teams in the NHL during his hockey career. After retirement, he became a pilot with American Airlines and still owns property south of the trail named in his honor.

Secord’s parents also owned a store that operated out of Espanola Mall for many years called The Penalty Box. Now a fond memory for many Espanola residents, having served the community’s sporting needs for many years, it is no longer operational but well remembered and still missed.

Russell, meanwhile, smiles every time she drives through this part of town, remembering the positive change her and her young daughter’s near-tragic experience brought about. This should serve as a reminder to all that it only takes one person to make a big change for the better in any community. Everyone has a voice, and when they use those voices in a positive and constructive way, they can improve the lives of the entire community. The Al Secord Fitness Trail is a beloved part of this city, born out of one man’s voice affecting positive change for all.

The Power of Positive Change, The Story Behind the Al Secord Fitness Trail
Photo by Kelly Cunningham A sign at Clear Lake naming a trail in honor of local hockey legend Al Secord.

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