Government Shutdown Costly for National Parks
Washington, D.C.

Last fall’s government shutdown took its toll on the National Park system. Numbers revealed by the Obama administration in March totaled $414 million lost by parks and surrounding communities due to closures. According to a report by the AP, eight million fewer people visited parks due to the 16-day shutdown, and five states, including California and Arizona, lost more than $20 million. Six states—Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New York, South Dakota, and Tennessee—decided to reopen parks using state funds, and according to the report, a Congressional bill is pending to reimburse those states.

Finishing the Allegheny Trail
Paint Bank, Va.

After 40 years of hard work from dedicated volunteers, the lengthy Allegheny Trail may soon be completed. According to a story in the West Virginia Gazette, a local hiking group started blazing the final 30 miles of the 330-mile trail back in March. The West Virginia Scenic Trails Association was formed back in 1974 to construct the yellow-blazed trail, which starts on the Mason-Dixon Line at the Pennsylvania-West Virginia border near Bruceton Mills and leads hikers south until it intersects with the Appalachian Trail on Peters Mountain at the Virginia-West Virginia border. To finish the trail, the WVSTA is hard at work on the 30-mile stretch that crosses under I-64 near the Virginia-West Virginia state line east of White Sulphur Springs. It will extend to the Laurel Branch community in Monroe County.

Thread Trail Grows
Charlotte, N.C.

The Thread will be one of the longest regional trail systems in the country, spanning some 1,500 miles through the Carolinas. Currently about 135 miles of the Thread are open. The longest continuous segment is the 15-mile Ridgeline Trail, which Kings Mountain State Park, Kings Mountain National Military Park, and Crowders Mountain State Park, all of which are great destinations for rock climbing, hiking, and biking.

Another top priority is building a 50-mile canoe and kayak blueway along the Rocky River, which runs through North Carolina’s Piedmont region. The goal is to put additional access points and put-in areas along the river near bridges and roads.

The Thread is not a point-to-point path, but rather a spider web network of trails extending across North and South Carolina. Funding new trail construction remains a challenge, but Karl Froelich, the Thread’s new executive director, says his organization provides grants to some towns to help with the process—the towns have to match at least 10 percent—along with expert trail design and building support. “Bottom line is people love trails,” he says. “We’re just giving them what they want.”

Ray Runs the Parkway
Boone, N.C.

In the North Carolina High Country, people don’t get the forecast from The Weather Channel. They get it from Ray’s Weather Center. The Boone-based online weather service was started as a hobby more than a decade ago by Ray Russell, a computer science professor at Appalachian State University. Now the mountain area’s most trusted weather source employs five forecasters and is read by 250,000 people a month.

At the end of this month, Russell, an avid runner, will take off in an attempt to run the entire Blue Ridge Parkway in 30 days. During the End to Ender, Russell will cover all 469 miles as a fundraiser for the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation and to celebrate the launch of his new website BRPweather.com. The journey can be followed with daily video blogs at RaysWeather.com.

Racing in Undies
Grand Rapids, Michigan

In March, runners in a Michigan 5K were encouraged to complete the course in some interesting attire. Organizers of the 3.1-mile FUNderwear Run asked racers to don their drawers on the outside of regular running apparel. The interesting dress code was meant to inspire good humor, as the race was part of the annual Gilda’s LaughFest, which attracted some big time comedians including Jay Leno, Lily Tomlin, and Chris Tucker. Despite a temperature of 21 degrees, 300 runners proudly wore their underwear (some of them wore it on the outside of their clothes) for a good cause. Proceeds benefitted Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids, which offers emotional support to those suffering from grief due to cancer and other illnesses.

Pee-Wee’s Cruiser Fetches Big Bucks on eBay
Oceanside, California

The iconic red cruiser bike ridden by actor Paul Reubens as the character Pee-wee Herman sold on eBay for big money in March. The souped-up Schwinn, which anchored the plot of the 1985 film Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, fetched $36,600 after a competitive 55 bids were placed on the online auction site. The bike came with an autographed photo of Ruebens, an additional pic of him signing the photo, a certificate of authenticity, and a Warner Bros. spec sheet on the cruiser.

New Half-marathon Treadmill Record
Boston, Massachusetts

In March, 23-year-old Tyler Andrews set the new unofficial world record for the fastest half-marathon time on a treadmill. Andrews ran the 13.1-mile distance in 1:07:18, 11 seconds quicker than the previous record held by Scottish runner Andrew Lemoncello. According to a story on the Runner’s World website, Andrews, who ran in place at Marathon Sports in Boston, was six seconds behind the record heading into the final 1.1 miles, but a late burst of energy led to a 4:58 final mile to accomplish the feat. The record was attempted as a scholarship and community development program fundraiser for Strive Trips, an organization that sends high school athletes to South America and Africa for training and community work programs.

—Jedd Ferris and Sam Boykin