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Hopkinsville Library Walking Group Brings Community Together After COVID

HCCPL Walking Group 1.jpg
Dustin Wilcox
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DeeAnna Sova leads the Hopkinsville Christian-County Public Library walking group on the Greenway Rail Trail.

Some Hopkinsvillians are reclaiming a sense of community after a difficult year by gathering at the local public library's weekly walking group.

Led by Hopkinsville-Christian County Public Library Director DeeAnna Sova, the group regularly meets to walk the Greenway Rail Trail, the citywide pedestrian walkway.

On a humid morning in mid-June, familiar faces and newcomers chatted with each other as library director DeeAnna Sova snapped a photo of the week’s participants

“We’ve had a lot of programs that we’ve spent money on and a lot of promotion and planning, and you just don’t have a lot of response,” Sova said. “And then, you have something like this that doesn’t require anything except being present and the willingness to want to get out and move.”

Sova said last spring, the library had planned a cardio-based exercise group that was canceled before it began due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, some of the library staff started meeting in the mornings to walk, and they soon decided to invite the public.

“The only incentive is just that you’re doing it with a group of people, and I think you have the opportunity to meet people that you wouldn’t have met otherwise,” Sova said. “And maybe to see parts of the trail that you don’t normally walk on.”

Sova said between five and 16 people show up for the weekly walk on Fridays, and the main reason people join is for camaraderie.

Freddie Wells is a regular attendee who discovered the walking group through social media. He joined because he knows Sova “does a lot of things for the community,” and he felt capable of working this particular program into his busy schedule.

“I’ve made some new friends,” Wells said. “And to me, that’s important, to meet people I’ve never met before. Then, you may walk at a faster pace one day, not so fast the next day, and it’s just beneficial health-wise. So it’s just good to get out and walk with these other folks from the community.”

David Aldridge typically participates with his wife, Julie, who wasn’t able to make it that Friday. Having met so many people during his time in the grocery business, he’s similarly drawn to the social benefits.

“When you walk by yourself, it seems like sometimes it takes a long time,” Aldridge said. “If you’re walking with people and talking to them, it makes the time go faster, and you’re probably not walking it any faster, but you’re not paying attention to how long you’re walking or where you’re walking.”

Mimi Royster attended the walking group for the first time with her children and came as a way to encourage herself to walk more often.

“I can talk to the other people, which I don’t know them,” Royster said. “But that would be the fun for me, to just talk to a different person.”

Blazing the Trail

HCCPL Walking Group 2.jpg
Dustin Wilcox
/
Mimi Royster (middle) with one of her children, Kalyne (left), and her friend, Maya Yamamaka (right).

The HCCPL walking group uses Hopkinsville’s Greenway Rail Trail, which includes 3.15 miles of abandoned railroad converted into pedestrian paths.

Sara Ruth said she enjoyed tagging along with the walking group for the first time on June 18, and she plans to come again in the future. This marked her second time seeing Greenway, which she said was controversial when it was first built.

“Cost, of course, was part of it,” Ruth said. “But I think it does bring the community together, just as the sidewalks have. People are getting out. We’re visiting. I didn’t know anybody but DeeAnna and the two girls I came with, and I’ve made a new friend today. I think it’s more a sense of community.”

HCCPL Director Sova said she enjoys the “excellent” condition of the sidewalks, the opportunities to see wildlife and the shaded nature of the path.

“It’s not just for people that exercise,” Sova said. “I use it a lot. I notice that the people that use it are using it as a thoroughfare to get from one place to the other. You see people in their work uniforms. You see people carrying Food Lion bags and dollar store bags.”

Spreading the Word

Each week, Sova livestreams a portion of the walk, often highlighting “guest walkers” representing organizations in the community.

“Good morning, this is DeAnna, and we are with our walking group,” Sova said to viewers at home as she traversed the path. “Look at this group of people out here, hard walking. We’ve got some newbies with us.”

The Corner Coffeehouse on Main Street offers a free coffee or $2 off any other drink to participants who stop by after their walk.

“[The library has] meant a great deal to us over the years,” said Amanda Hoff-McClure, co-owner of the Corner Coffeehouse. “And considering their proximity to our business, we considered [the promotion] kind of a helpful thing for them and for us to offer, both an incentive to their walk and an incentive for people to come here afterwards.”

The HCCPL walking group meets every Friday at 8:30 a.m. CST in the library’s parking lot. For more information, visit HCCPL at 1101 Bethel Street, or on Facebook and Instagram.

Dustin Wilcox is a television production student at Murray State University. He graduated from Hopkinsville High School in 2019.