Government Shutdown Costly for National ParksWashington, 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 TrailPaint 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 GrowsCharlotte, 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 ParkwayBoone, 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 UndiesGrand Rapids, MichiganIn 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 eBayOceanside, CaliforniaThe 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 RecordBoston, MassachusettsIn 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
An hour before the gates opened, dozens of uniformed students wearing face masks stood silently in single file outside their schools in the dusty South African township of Tembisa.”Have you seen how many are waiting to come in?” said Eddie Kekana, the headmaster of Winnie Mandela Secondary School, just north of Johannesburg.”They have been longing to come to school,” he said. Students across South Africa returned to classes on Monday after two and a half months of home-schooling to limit the spread of coronavirus.The education department last week postponed the reopening, originally slated for June 1, to better prepare facilities and train staff.Schools had been shut since March 19, two weeks after Africa’s most industrialized economy recorded its first coronavirus case and days before President Cyril Ramaphosa imposed one of the world’s strictest lockdowns.As restrictions have been gradually eased, with more movement allowed and economic activity resuming, exam-year students were welcomed back to classes. ‘No hugging’ By 9:30 am, all of the students were finally in class. A total 234 students out of 263 enrolled attended on Monday.Only two students were sent home: the first had a cold and the second was 38 weeks pregnant.Classes began with hygiene instructions.”Today you’re going to learn a new way of life,” the headmaster told the students.”No hugging, no shaking hands, no kissing,” said one teacher.”As schoolchildren, we are not good at social distancing. We like touching each other,” said Delin Walend.In one classroom, students lowered their masks to chat.One student, Mandla Masinga, asked about the logic behind reopening schools when the pandemic is expected to peak in South Africa in a few weeks’ time. The country has the continent’s highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases, with 48,285 infections and at least 998 deaths recorded to date.”It’s confusing,” he said. “When the infections were low, nobody was expecting to be out of school. But now that the number of infections are higher, we are back at school.” “I am very happy but at the same time I am very scared to come back to school,” said 21-year-old Lefa Ramoroka, dressed in the school uniform of grey trousers and an azure blue blazer.”I thought I would not see my friends again,” he said.But he expressed concern about maintaining basic hygiene protocols expected in the fight against COVID-19.”Often there is no water at school,” he said. Maths via WhatsApp The pipes are working, however, according to the headmaster Kekana, and two large tanks were available in case of water cuts. At the entrance to the school, teachers took the temperature of each student, who answered a quick health questionnaire.For nearly three months, the teachers have been giving lessons remotely, though doing so by videoconference was out of the question.”Videos take too much space and too much data,” said Steve Shaku, who taught maths via WhatsApp, audio messages and downloadable documents.But some students did not have the technology to access the lessons.”I could not see everything,” Eliza Manasse, who lives with her single mother and siblings. “I have only a small phone. It was challenging to follow the classes,” she said.Other students borrowed phones from neighbors whenever possible.”We are finally teaching at satisfactory standards,” said Shaku, installing a protective visor over his mask.”We have to catch up,” warned one of his colleagues, Noko Matloa. “Our clock is ticking.”For the students’ return, Winnie Mandela Secondary School was divided into 14 classes, compared to the usual six. Topics :
Hearts of Oak midfielder Emmanuel Nettey says he and his teammates are gutted over the suspension of the Ghana Premier League indefinitely.The decision to suspend the league was taken as a means of preventing the spread of the coronavirus which has brought not just football but sports around the world to a halt.With the Phobians slated to play King Faisal as part of the matchday 15 before fixtures were cancelled Nettey believes their energy has been greatly hampered.“It was heartbreaking hearing the news because of where we have come from as a club.“Everyone knows how we were faring and what our position was on the league log.“After picking up our momentum and scoring four past Olympics,travelling to Bechem and then hearing the news,it was heartbreaking but God knows best,” he revealed to Citi Sports.Hearts currently occupy the 8th spot on the league log but also have an outstanding game to complete.