My friend Steve Buchtel told a story at the Mid American Trails and Greenways Conference.  Steve spoke a lot about the economics and history of the Cal-Sag Trail.  But what really stuck was the story about Ray and how the trail saved his life.

I can’t do it the same way that Steve does, but I will try to tell you about the movement to #saveray.

Steve was doing trail surveys when he met Ray and learned the story.  Ray was in bad shape.   He had a heart attack and his doctor said he needed to walk.  Lucky for Ray, the Cal-Sag Trail had opened four blocks from his house.    Ray had an opportunity to walk and improve his health.

It is important to note how Ray walked.  He was slow.  Years of smoking damaged his lungs.  But he was outside, moving, and alive.  And, the Cal-Sag trail was the reason he was there.  Ray would walk the four blocks to the trail and turn right.  He would walk a distance to a park bench.  He would sit, rest, and have a cigarette.  Once he caught his breath, he would walk back to the trail access.  Then he would go to a local bar to see if the White Sox were playing.  After, he would go home.

One day, Ray was on his walk.  His park bench was gone.  Ray was in trouble. He was anxious and short of breath without his rest stop.  He ended up sitting on the ground until he caught his breath.  But this spelled bigger trouble for Ray.  He stopped walking.   Without his bench, he couldn’t stop and rest.  A month goes by and Ray’s health begins to deteriorate.

One day, at the bar, one of Ray’s friends asked him about the trail.  He said he wasn’t walking anymore because he couldn’t make the trip without the bench to rest on.

Epiphany.  Ray’s friend made the suggestion that saved Ray’s life.  “Instead of turning right, why don’t you try to turn left.”  Bingo!  There was a new park bench and just the right distance.  Ray was walking again.