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      Thousand Hills State Park one step closer to getting new trail

      The Forest Lake Area Trail System is one step closer to beginning construction.

      On Sunday afternoon, about 50 volunteers braved the heat to clear underbrush at the Thousand Hills State Park so that Phase One of construction on the new trail system can begin the summer of 2012.

      Phase One will include a 10 ft. wide, handicap accessible, paved, hiking and biking trail that will connect the marina to the Petroglyph site near the beach area.

      Many of the volunteers said they came out to help because they wanted to do whatever they could to keep the project moving forward.

      "This is a very worthwhile project," said Jennifer Hurst, an Associate Professor of Exercise Science at Truman State University. "I'm actually somebody that really believes in the power of nature both in terms of our physical as well as our mental wellness and so anything to help to increase access for everyone is something I'll get behind.

      "Anytime we get the opportunity to serve, we're just going to take it and make it happen," said Cary Nave, a member of the Blue Key Honors Fraternity at Truman State University.

      "It was a very nice day as well so I thought we could come out here and help and also get a great tan at the same time, " said Cam Jadali, also a member of the Blue Key Honors Fraternity at Truman State University.

      A groundbreaking ceremony for Phase I is expected to take place in May.

      "We're pretty confident that if we get Phase I on the ground like we plan to this summer, and then we get the rest of the survey work done on Phase II, things will be done in a short amount of time," said Dan Martin, one of the Co-Chairs of the Forest Lake Area Trail System. "We will complete this project."

      Organizers said they have raised more than $225,000 in donations that will go towards the completion of the entire three phase project. Phase II involves extending Phase I to the north campground and then the third and final phase involves extending that trail to Kirksville.

      "This has been a great project that we're getting close to getting it started and having concrete on the ground and a trail that people will be able to use for years to come," said Royce Kallerud, one of the Co-Chairs of the Forest Lake Area Trail System.