The Town of West Hartford, through the Department of Leisure Services, is participating in the ’10-Minute Walk’ campaign to encourage residents to visit their local parks.
By Ronni Newton
On the 10th day of the 10th month of this year, West Hartford’s efforts to encourage greater use of and appreciation for its parks will culminate with special events and programs on what is known as ’10-Minute Walk Day.”
“It’s wonderful that 80 percent of West Hartford residents live within a 10-minute walk of a public park or playground, but we want to get them into those parks,” said Helen Rubino-Turco, director of Leisure and Social Services.
Throughout this year, the town has been participating in the 10-Minute Walk campaign, which is 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 Mayor Shari 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.
West Hartford’s 10-Minute Walk initiative, to increase engagement in a variety of ways, began on Earth Day 2019, with planting of 10 species of native trees. One new tree will be planted in each of 10 featured parks, and it began with a sugar maple in Kennedy Park. Planting has been on hiatus for the summer, but will be completed in the fall, Rubino-Turco said.
The 10 featured parks are Beachland, Eisenhower, Fernridge, Kennedy, Spice Bush Swamp, Southwood, Trout Brook Trail, Vanderbilt, Westmoor, and Wolcott. They are large and small, offering a mix of recreational activities. Trout Brook Trail is a linear park, Rubino-Turco said.
Other activities related to the 10-Minute Walk initiative have included, or will include, the Parks BINGO game, story time in parks, the Park to Park Walk with Friends of Fernridge Park, park clean-up days, Hike with a Naturalist in Westmoor Park (Saturday, Aug. 17; Saturday, Sept. 21; and Saturday, Oct. 19), Pooch Plunge (Aug. 19), Center Streets (Sunday, Aug. 25), and the Park Road Parade on Oct.. 5.
Coming up on Sunday Aug. 11 is a 10-mile Park to Park Bike Ride. Rubino-Turco said she was thrilled when Scott Franklin, an officer with Bike West Hartford, immediately jumped in to support the 10-Minute Walk effort.
Participants should arrive at Fernridge Park by 9 a.m. for the free event, and members of Bike West Hartford will lead riders to four other locations. All times are approximate, but the ride is expected to take 1 ½ to 1 ¾ hours, and will include stops at Westmoor Park (9:40 a.m.), fields at the former UConn campus (10 a.m.), Elizabeth Park (10:15 a.m.), Vanderbilt Park (10:30 a.m.) and return to Fernridge by 10:45 a.m.
For additional information, contact Franklin at [email protected].
Rubino-Turco said partnerships with organizations like Bike West Hartford are a key element of making this initiative successful and involving more people – and most of the related events with partners are either free or low cost. Other partners include the West Hartford Public Library which has hosted story times, Fleet Feet Sports which organizes running groups that run to and through local parks, and the West Hartford Garden Club which beautifies many local parks.
West Hartford Yoga is not an official partner, but has been offering yoga classes in parks throughout town. “We’re super happy that they’re doing it. This is what it’s all about, getting people to parks to do fun things,” Rubino-Turco said.
Leisure Services has also been running Parks BINGO – a game that encourages people to visit parks or engage in other healthy activities. It can be a fun activity for families to engage in during the final weeks of summer.
“There are so many physical and mental benefits of living close to a park,” Rubino-Turco said, and the free game will serve as an incentive. It’s open to town residents only and is on the “honor system,” and those who complete BINGO will be entered in a drawing to receive a free pair of shoes from Fleet Feet Sports.
BINGO is underway now and will run through Halloween. Parks BINGO cards may be picked up at Leisure Services facilities or printed off from the website https://westhartfordct.gov/leisureservices. Directions are on the back, and can also be seen on the PDF below.
“All of this leads to 10/10, which is ‘walk to your favorite park’ day,” Rubino-Turco said – the center of the BINGO card. “We want to make as large a statement as possible.”
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