Missy Curry, left, and Suzanne Taylor walk on Greensburg's Merchant Mile. Greensburg, Ky.- Audrey Myers wants a bright future for Greensburg, and as the county’s family and consumer sciences agent with the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, she is taking strides to do so.

Myers joined forces with Jackie Hodges, an educator with the Green County Health Department, to start a walking trail in the town of a little more than 2,100. The trail, the Merchant Mile, not only has health benefits for the area’s residents, but is designed to raise awareness of and draw locals to downtown.

“Greensburg residential areas do not have sidewalks, so we wanted a trail that was easily accessible in our town that would provide people a place for safe, physical activity and create foot traffic for downtown businesses,” Myers said.

Unlike other small towns that have struggled to keep downtown buildings occupied, Greensburg in south-central Kentucky has a vibrant town center with most of the storefronts occupied. About 50 businesses provide services to the city and Green County’s 12,000 residents. Businesses include professional services, clothing stores, hardware stores and restaurants. Still like many small towns in Kentucky, Greensburg struggles to keep locals’ money in the community, as residents are easily attracted to the big-box store conveniences and the larger variety of shops available in nearby counties.

“Our goals were to increase people’s awareness of our downtown stores and provide storeowners with incentives to improve the aesthetics of downtown,” Myers said.

In 2013, Myers and Hodges contacted merchants to participate in the mile. Merchant Mile participants placed a yellow sign on their storefront to show support of the walkers’ efforts. Some provide walkers with water, restrooms, a place to rest, discounts and water bowls for their dogs. Myers and Hodges also encouraged the downtown businesses to allow their employees to walk the mile during their breaks. Most of the businesses jumped on board.

“It’s been very beneficial to draw people into the mile and to the stores downtown, said Julia Hartfield, owner of Mitchell and Edwards Boutique, a clothing store that’s served the community for 53 years.

Frequent walker Suzanne Taylor knows the importance of attracting foot traffic into downtown, as she was a merchant for 11 years.

“It is important to attract business downtown for the economic prosperity of our community,” Taylor said. “There is still a need for mom-and-pop stores in small communities like Greensburg.”

For walker Missy Curry, it was an opportunity to build healthy habits and family bonds.

“I started walking the mile because it was something my mother and I could do together,” said Curry, the manager of the Green County library. “On Super Saturdays, the health department was here, and they provided Body Mass Index assessments. That was a really good way to connect patrons to the health department and the services they offer.”

Author: Katie Pratt
Contact: Audrey Myers, 270-932-5311