The Town of West Hartford, through the Department of Leisure Services, has been participating in the ’10-Minute Walk’ campaign to encourage residents to visit their local parks.
By Ronni Newton
Thursday at 10 a.m., on the 10th day of the 10th month of the year, the Town of West Hartford celebrated its participation in the “10-Minute Walk” campaign with a brief ceremony at Town Hall.
Following the reading of a proclamation by Mayor Shari Cantor, some remarks by Department of Leisure and Social Services Director Helen Rubino-Turco, Parks and Recreation Advisory Board Chair Shawna Kitzman, State Sen. Derek Slap, and State Rep. Jillian Gilchrest, the group walked to the northwest corner of Farmington Avenue and Trout Brook Drive where a cherry tree is being planted as part of one of the 10-Minute Walk campaign initiatives.
“This is really an important initiative,” Cantor said. Numerous studies have shown the social, environmental, economic, and health benefits of parks, and she said they are essential not only for recreation but peace and a safe habitat.
Well-maintained parks are “a source of pride … a sign of how livable a community is,” Cantor said. “It takes a commitment to have a park, and to maintain a park.”
West Hartford’s parks are spread throughout the community – creating a greater maintenance challenge than if the town had just one large complex.
Throughout this year, West Hartford has been participating in the 10-Minute Walk campaign, a national effort organized jointly by the Trust for Public Land and the National Recreation and Park Association, based on the goal of everyone living within a 10-minute walk of a public park.
West Hartford has been featuring 10 of its parks throughout the campaign – diverse properties that includes large parks with pools and recreation facilities, the demonstration farm at Westmoor Park, smaller “pocket parks” like Vanderbilt Park, Spicebush Swamp, and Southwood Park, and the Trout Brook Trail, a linear park which currently has three of its seven phases completed.
West Hartford’s “parks” also include the MDC Reservoir, Elizabeth Park, athletic facilities like the Glover Soccer Complex and Sterling Field, and school grounds where playgrounds are open to the community when school is not in session.
The 10-Minute Walk campaign has been spearheaded by the mayors of cities and municipal leaders throughout the country “to harness the power of parks and public green spaces to address urban challenges,” Rubino-Turco said.
Cantor signed a pledge last year committing the town to the campaign’s philosophy, and Rubino-Turco said the town’s demographics indicate that 80 percent, or 51,340 residents, already live within that 10-minute walking distance. A far smaller percentage, however, actually engage with their local parks.
In order to increase engagement, Leisure Service created “Parks BINGO,” a game that encourages people to visit parks or engage in other healthy activities listed on the card. Rubino-Turco said she presented the game at a recent national convention, and other town leaders thought it was a great idea.
Although Thursday was 10-Minute Walk Day, and there was a special incentive to wall to a park on that day, the Parks BINGO game runs through Halloween.
Anyone who gets BINGO in at least one direction can return their card by Oct. 31 (hand deliver it to Town Hall or any Leisure Services facility; mail it to Leisure Services, West Hartford Town Hall, 50 South Main St., Room 128, West Hartford, CT 06107; or take a photo of it and email it to [email protected]
“It’s designed so any segment of the community can do it,” Rubino-Turco said of Parks BINGO – seniors, families, children.
At Thursday’s ceremony, Rubino-Turco and Cantor also commended Friends of Fernridge Park, which has taken the initiative to maintain and improve their neighborhood park.
Leisure Services has been using them as an example, and gradually expanding neighborhood outreach groups to other parks. Rubino-Turco thanked the legislative delegation for assisting in getting funding for improvements at Wolcott Park, and said Kennedy Park is the next one that will be improved.
Leisure Services has been fortunate to be able to partner with Peter Miniutti, an associate professor of landscape architecture at UConn, who has used the development of plans for West Hartford’s parks as a teaching tool – allowing the town to receive those plans at a fraction of the cost.
Miniutti will be assisting with Kennedy Park plans, and eventually all of the parks will be tied together in a master plan, Rubino-Turco said.
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