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Trails of Tranquility: Nurturing Well-being & Community in Noble County

An interview with Dr. Terry Gaff.


A woman riding her bike down Fishing Line Trail In Rome City
Fishing Line Trail Rome City

Explore a rejuvenating dialogue between the Noble County CVB and Dr. Terry Gaff, delving into the profound link between trails, nature, tourism, and overall well-being. Dr. Gaff and Lyzbeth from the Noble County CVB recently walked the serene Fishing Line Trail connecting Kendallville and Rome City. Their discussion reveals how trails significantly impact mental and physical health, drawing from empirical evidence and personal insights.


This blog also serves as a compelling call to action, urging support for Noble Trails. This conversation transcends a mere task, sparking deep self-reflection. Inspired by Dr. Gaff's advice, Lyzbeth contemplates embracing a tricycle for exercise, recognizing the therapeutic benefits of trails and nature. We encourage you to prioritize your well-being and consider contributing to the upkeep and activities of Noble Trails. Whether you choose to cycle, walk, or simply immerse yourself in the surroundings, find your path to rejuvenation. Enjoy the journey!


Noble County CVB: Thank you, Dr. Gaff, for agreeing to have this discussion with us. Can you tell me about yourself so that people who do not know you will be able to know you better and understand why we chose to have this conversation about the connection between trails, nature, tourism, and physical and mental health with you?

 

Dr. Terry Gaff: I grew up about 10 miles south of Kendallville on a farm, went to medical school and then came back here and practiced family medicine for seventeen years in Albion. Subsequently, I practiced emergency medicine in Kendallville and LaGrange for another twenty years. I was the medical director of the emergency department at Parkview Noble Hospital as well as the Emergency Medical Service for 15 years. I have previously been the Coroner for Noble County for sixteen years and the County Health Officer after that for nine years including during the pandemic. I have been president of the Noble Trails Inc. organization for close to ten years. In that time, that group of volunteers has been able to produce a ten-foot-wide asphalt trail connecting Kendallville and Rome City. We are in the process of trying to connect with other communities in Noble County and encouraging the development of trails. I find it relaxing to walk or ride on the trail. It helps to give my life some degree of purpose both in assisting in the creation and the use of the trails.

 

Noble County CVB: How would you describe the connection between our physical health and our mental health?

 

Dr. Terry Gaff: The mind and the body are inseparable. Neither one works properly without the other and consequently, if you can keep your body as active as possible without injury, then it’s to the advantage of both your body and your mind.

 

Visit Noble County: How would you describe the importance of nature, trails, and tourism to both our physical and mental health?

 

Dr. Terry Gaff: It’s relaxing. It also has the potential for competition and personal achievement. You can join a 5K walk/run event or join the bicycle club that has recently been formed that uses the trail. That being the case, it helps all the people who are involved stay grounded both in activities and the outdoors. We didn’t develop as a species to sit and do nothing. It is to our advantage to be active and that’s something that the trails help us to keep grounded and healthy both in mind and body. So, the trails offer the opportunity of activity in a safe environment surrounded by nature but also cleared off such that there’s an ease of access. So, we want to make it as easy as possible for people to get out and enjoy nature without having to deal with hiking through weeds or something like that. And we want to make sure that it is available to people who are experiencing some disabilities. We want to allow them to see the woods and see the fields and travel from one town to another without having to worry about traffic. So that is the role of trials. It presents an opportunity for people to help themselves. We are not going to go out and drag people over here, but we provide opportunities for people, and we have a lot of generous volunteers who help us do that mostly by involving their time and their contributions in terms of dollars and energy.

 


Many people using Fishing Line Trail during the annual 5k Run/Walk
Noble Trails 5K April 2024

Noble County CVB: Aside from the relaxation that walking or cycling on the trails provides, what else do the trails offer to someone in terms of their mental and physical health?

 

Dr. Terry Gaff: Basically, the trails offer people the capability of physical conditioning and social interactions because if you go out and walk on a trail with a friend. Then, you have the opportunity to interact with your friends as well as the people that you may encounter on the trail. You get to see nature at its best. Also, if you go out on a trail and you are alone, it allows you to reflect. People who are distance runners especially can kind of get into a Zen-like experience, almost a trance, just as if your brain is floating along, your body is doing something very repetitive, and it allows you to get either inside or outside yourself to work out problems.

 

Noble County CVB: What is the importance of reflection and self-introspection? Why do we even need that?

 

Dr. Terry Gaff: Well, we need to understand ourselves to be able to interact with other people. If you don’t understand yourself, if you are not comfortable in your skin, it’s hard to interact empathetically with people that are around you. It’s important to maintain your health; both mental and physical health and then you can benefit both yourself and others at the same time.

 

Noble County CVB: You have been doing the trails, you have been engaging with nature, and doing other physical activities. What has it done for you as a person? How has it helped your mental health?

 

Dr. Terry Gaff: For me, I started this when I was still working full time and involvement in the trials added additional stress to my life for quite some time. On the other hand, it gave me the feeling of some degree of joy in being able to accomplish something substantial and hopefully permanent or near permanent that’s beyond myself. Then I retired and I was able to continue the activity of being involved in the wonderful group of volunteers who put this trail together and be able to see and hear from friends and everyone who can benefit from this trail and activity in general. Being an introvert, I appreciate the idea that it essentially forces me to be among other people. I probably would shy away from people if I were not involved in this. It gives the opportunity for someplace to go and ride your bike for about half an hour and see the landscape because it is always changing. It’s just a nice place. I love the trails and I want people to be healthy and happy.

 

Noble County CVB: Thank you so much. Is there anything that you would like to add or share that I did not ask regarding trails, tourism, nature, and their connection with mental and physical health?

 

Dr. Terry Gaff: Largely, we always welcome other volunteers or people to help us with both the construction and development of new trails as well as with the care and maintenance of the trail that already exists. I would love for people to be involved anytime they have the time or opportunity and I’m hoping to see that this becomes a long-term opportunity for people to be involved. The more people use it, the safer and better it will be.

 

Noble County CVB: What happens if people do not use it?

 

Dr. Terry Gaff: If it’s neglected, what will happen is that it will simply deteriorate. The pavement will become irregular and unusable and there will be overgrowth. What we do now is trim along the edges. Nature is such that it tends to pull back anything that you try to take away from it. So, it wouldn’t take long without maintenance for this trail to be unusable. We have created an endowment fund at the Community Foundation of Noble County. The income from that endowment fund will be there to help with the maintenance and repair of the trail over time such that as long as the Community Foundation remains intact and that fund remains intact, the trails will have at least some source of income as we prepare for the future of the trail. The trails give people the opportunity for longevity and health. I try to use it for that. Luckily, I am exceptionally healthy for my age.

 

Noble County CVB: Thank you so much Dr. Gaff for making time for this conversation which seeks to educate people on the importance of trails, nature, and tourism on our mental and physical health


Lyzbeth King and Dr. Terry Gaff walking the Noble Trail System
Lyzbeth King and Dr. Terry Gaff walking the Noble Trail System

To conclude this post, we invite you all to visit Noble County, explore our trails, and support the mission of Noble Trails which is “to promote the development of trails, connect communities, encourage healthy and active lifestyles, improve the quality of life, and provide opportunities to enjoy Indiana’s natural beauty”. It is key to remember that the trails are handicap accessible and the continuous use of the trails will prevent its deterioration.


Green, Red, and Blue Logo for Noble Trails
Noble Trails Logo


Call for Action

Consider supporting Noble Trails through volunteering, donations, or both. Email info@nobletrails.org to request for more information. Visit https://www.nobletrails.org/ for more information including Noble Trail’s events or activities.

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