CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As a cross-country athlete at George Washington High School, Willy Shuman loved to run.
But he had to go to Kanawha State Forest to practice.
"Willy would just love this. This is awesome," said Shuman's mother, Jane, about the new nature trail built at George Washington in her son's memory. "This has gone from a tiny path in the woods to a fabulous trail."
Willy died in a car crash three years ago, just four days before he was scheduled to leave for the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado, where he planned to play Division I college tennis.
His initials, WAS, can be found on bumper stickers across the South Hills community and have taken on a new meaning since his death: Wear A Seatbelt.
The new 1.2-kilometer public walking trail behind GW's football field bears the same initials.
Willy's friends and family cut the ribbon to dedicate the trail Friday evening and were joined by representatives from Coal River Energy, Pritchard Mining Co. and Greer Industries, which supplied equipment and work crews for its construction.
Also, members of the 30th District of the House of Delegates, who secured a grant for funding, and U.S. Senate Republican candidate John Raese, who donated 250 tons of gravel.
Other contributors include Boy Scouts Troop 71, the George Washington JROTC and The Willy Foundation.
"A project like this has brought public, private, administrators' and students' resources together. It takes the work of many," said Delegate Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha, a GW graduate who headed the efforts of a $10,000 grant from the state Legislature for the trail. "I know there's a smiling face looking down on us."
Aaron Florence chose the trail as his project to work toward his Eagle Scout badge as a senior at GW, and said he's thrilled the community can benefit from his efforts.
"Willy was headed to the Air Force, he was a runner and he was a George Washington student," Florence said. "Let's make it all about him and make sure that everyone who uses the trail knows why it's here."
Future plans for the trail include a 45-student outdoor classroom, resting benches for pedestrians and additional exercise stations.
Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.m...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.