Taylor Jacobsen takes the phrase “follow your heart” literally. Walking along the sidewalks of downtown Baton Rouge just months ago, the LSU landscape architecture graduate and former tech company COO placed heart-shaped decals in a methodical pattern, passing by art installations and local landmarks. Not easily visualized from the ground level, from an aerial view his completed 3.2-mile course creates a larger-than-life version of a heart, making up just part of his reasoning for the title of the “Heart Trail.”
In 2018, Jacobsen left his job in the drone technology industry not out of a lack of passion for the field, but out of a concern for his health. Experiencing heart issues related to stress, he went back to his landscape design roots, seizing time among the trees as a way to unwind.
“I realized that my health was more important than my job,” he explains. “I changed my outlook on stress and started walking. I quickly realized the impact of the outdoors.”
The benefits that Jacobsen gained from taking time out of his day to exercise were immeasurable, fueling his mission to pass the practice onto others. Establishing his own design company, Urban Canvas Studio, Jacobsen brought his vision for an art-focused downtown walking trail to the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge. Their enthusiasm for the project propelled Jacobsen forward, granting him necessary connections in order to make his dream a reality.
“The big thing was how to get others to do it as well,” Jacobsen says, noting that the trail was funded through the Baton Rouge General Foundation as a measure of preventative medicine, especially due to Louisiana’s high rates of cardiovascular disease. “The idea is that the trail will help you re-fall in love with your city. The Heart Trail passes nine parks, 110 businesses and countless historical landmarks. It’s about reconnecting with the neighborhood you might have grown to take for granted.”
The first-ever public group walk along the newly established trail took place, appropriately, on Valentine’s Day of this year. But the completion of this trail was just the beginning of a larger initiative—a pilot project for a network of future trails that could eventually spread throughout Baton Rouge and around the state.
“The trail will eventually grow and we will add more art installations in order to create a more dense trail,” Jacobsen explains. “We’re looking at a possible second trail on Plank Road, and even the idea to put up to six paths throughout the city.”
But right now Jacobsen’s goal is simply to get people out and get them active. For him, the path is a way to not only provide people with daily exercise opportunities but also to give them a way to connect with the city and one another.
“Seeing the trail now, I feel a sense of reward to have found a method that works for me, but also allows me to appreciate everything that Baton Rouge is,” he explains. “I hope the trail can help others find moments of peace.”