You may not realize it, but behind the LHT is a whole cast of characters working to keep the trail safe and thriving. Our all-volunteer board – a group of Mercer County residents with different areas of expertise and a range of interests – keeps the rest of us hiking and biking. It’s time to shine a light on these folks in our ongoing series: Meet Our Board.
Meet Jill Young, a family physician who grew up in Mercer County and now lives in Pennington with her family. Jill’s medical expertise has been an asset for the LHT board for years — but became especially invaluable in the past year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. She’s also a longtime member of the LHT’s public relations and events committee; and has played a role in LHT events large and small.
LHT: Can you share a biography or statement regarding professional life and involvement in the LHT?
Jill: I grew up in Hamilton and returned home to Mercer County in 2006. My husband and I and our three children, who are now 12, 12, and 10, moved to Pennington in 2012. As a family physician at Capital Health, I have a passion for educating patients about a healthy lifestyle. Combining my loves of exercise, health and nature, it was only natural for me to become more actively involved in the LHT.
LHT: How did you discover the LHT? How did you end up getting involved?
Jill: I was asked by a colleague at Capital Health if I had interest in joining the LHT board. The former Capital Health representative had just retired, and they were looking for a physician to join to provide a different perspective. We had just discovered the trail and I happily accepted the offer. I have loved working with this wonderful group of people towards our common goal.
LHT: How long have you been a board member and what projects have you worked on?
Jill: I have served on the board for eight years and I primarily work on the PR and Events Committee. I have been involved in helping to plan our large, signature events, such as the Full Moon Ride and Trail and Treat, and I also organized and hosted a series of smaller events called Docs on the Trail — short informative lectures on medical topics followed by a hike on the trail.
Jill Young at the 2018 Trail and Treat at Village Park, photo by Matt Rainey
LHT: As the full trail nears completion, what do you think is next for the LHT?
Jill: I am excited for the LHT to make connections to other nearby towns, including Hopewell, Princeton, Ewing, and South Lawrence. Post-pandemic, I am ready to help plan more events for the community to enjoy the trail and all it has to offer.
LHT: Being the doctor on the board, we’ve come to you a lot over the past year regarding COVID protocols. Can you tell us a little about that experience and how the protocols have evolved?
Jill: As the guidance is constantly evolving, it has been challenging. We have now known for many months that masks, social distancing, and hand washing prevent disease. Outdoor activities are best, and ventilation is important. It is well-documented that exercise and being outdoors in nature decrease stress levels. There has never been a better time to get outdoors and enjoy your local trails.
LHT: How has being a doctor (and a mom) informed your work on the LHT board?
Jill: Being a mother has helped me plan events that would benefit families with children of all ages. When the idea of the Full Moon Ride was first born, a few board members felt that we were leaving out families with children under age 12 and developed the idea for the Trail and Treat ride, which is specifically designed for younger children.
Photo courtesy of Jill Young
LHT: As a mom of young kids — how do you use the trail as a family? Any favorite areas or activities?
Jill: Eight years ago, we used the trail very differently than we do now. We had a toddler and two preschoolers and could generally be found pushing two jogging strollers or riding our bikes while towing the kids behind us in a trailer. Now, our children enjoy riding the trail themselves and completed their first 20-mile bike ride on the LHT last summer. We often do hikes or jogs with the kids from our home in Pennington, through the new segment along Old Mill Road and into Rosedale Park. In addition, I am fortunate to have a group of friends in town who enjoy cycling and running as much as I do. We frequently exercise in a group and explore different trail segments together, while chatting away to make the time pass quickly.
Jill Young’s children enjoying the LHT, courtesy of Jill Young
Photo courtesy of Jill Young
LHT: Tell us a bit about how the LHT (or similar trails and outdoor, public spaces) can affect a person’s physical and mental health.
Jill: There is well-documented evidence that 150 minutes (approximately 30 minutes, five times per week) of cardiovascular exercise decreases the risk of heart attack and stroke. In addition, exercise has been shown to decrease the stress hormones in the body, such as cortisol, and at the same time, it increases certain neurotransmitters in the brain to naturally elevate your mood.
LHT: Are there any segments of the trail that are favorites or of particular interest to you, personally or in regard to health?
Jill: We have always loved hiking and biking in Rosedale Park and Mercer Meadows, especially since we can access it easily through Curlis Woods. Through the pandemic, we have discovered other areas, including scootering and rollerblading in ETS, hiking through Carson Road Woods and riding our bikes on the trail to the village of Lawrenceville for a sweet treat.
LHT: Please share any words of advice or encouragement for local residents discovering the LHT and how the trail can inspire a passion for outdoor experiences and exercise.
Jill: If it’s your first time on the trail, check out the LHT website before you head out on the trail. The updated website has helpful information about each individual segment, including length, surface, start and end points, and parking. There is also an updated map. Most importantly, just get outside and start to explore this amazing trail! There is so much to see and do and we are so lucky to have the LHT in the center of our community!