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Is Your Municipality
New Jersey's
Best Walking Town?

By Melissa Kostinas
Executive Director
Mayors Wellness Campaign

Numerous studies have shown that walking has incredible health benefits. Walking daily can strengthen your heart and lungs, reduce blood pressure, increase good cholesterol, prevent osteoporosis and reduce back pain. Doctors now even believe that walking can even prevent your brain from shrinking as you get older and reduce the chances of developing dementia.

The Mayors Wellness Campaign has been an advocate of walking since our start in 2005. We have promoted mayors as “champions of community health” and many of our mayors have taken this to heart when it comes to walking. Across the state, municipalities have introduced walking clubs, annual walk-run races, new walking trails and other walking events as a part of their mission to achieve wellness for all community members.

With that in mind, the Mayors Wellness Campaign would like to issue a challenge to all municipalities in 2012.

We are seeking nominations for “New Jersey’s 10 Best Towns for Walking.”

Does your town have what it takes? Is it pedestrian-friendly? Do you have walking and hiking trails? Do you have a MWC Walking Club or program? Are community-wide walks organized? Does your town work to make parks, sidewalks and trails great destinations for walkers?

Whatever your community is doing to make it a great walking town, we want to know about it.

5th grade students on a nature walk
Fifth grade students participate in the River Day nature walk in Upper Saddle River.

Nominate your town as one of New Jersey’s 10 Best Towns for Walking. You can find the nomination form and more details about the contest at Go online today to nominate your town! The winning town will be the host of our press conference announcing the 10 Best Towns for Walking and all 10 towns will receive a sign or flag they can display.

In just the short time that I have been Director of the Mayors Wellness Campaign, I’ve seen the hard work that our municipalities are putting into their wellness programs in all areas. Today, however, I’d like to highlight some of the things our MWC towns have done to incorporate walking into their local campaigns. These are just some of the examples of what a town can do to be a successful candidate for our contest.

The Borough of Madison’s Rose City Steppers are a long-standing tradition among Madison’s community members. The Steppers have embraced the Mayors Wellness Campaign, organizing weekly walks in the summer months, and monthly walks year-round. Madison’s MWC, in conjunction with their Health Department, has put out a book called Madison Walks that features 20 walk maps, area highlights, fitness information and encouragement to exercise. Community members can join the Rose City Steppers for a donation fee, but a person does not have to join in order to participate in the walks. All walks are open to residents of Madison, Chatham Borough, Chatham Township and Morris Plains.

The Borough of Bay Head’s Mayors Wellness Campaign, GO Bay Head!, set the goal of encouraging residents to remain physically active every day and to learn about and understand good nutrition. To meet their goal, GO Bay Head! provides a number of walking-related activities available to community members. In addition to providing maps of the community, the website directs residents to ‘Tour the Town’ by completing a half-mile walking tour. Centennial Park is also the site of many MWC activities, including Mayor’s Walks, 5K runs, and ‘Walk Wednesdays’—the town’s program that gets students involved in walking or biking to school at least once a week. Bay Head’s residents can also enjoy walking along the town’s beaches, or on East Avenue, a 1-mile plus straight-away along the shore.

Walk and Talk on Belmar's Boardwalk
Residents of all ages came to Walk and Talk with Belmar’s Mayor Matt Doherty on the town’s boardwalk.

The Borough of Belmar has had success with community-wide walks and a “Walk and Talk” program featuring their mayor. The community walks take place two to three times a year on Belmar’s boardwalk or in their municipal gym and have been very popular. Belmar’s MWC organizes a walk in March specifically for senior citizens, along with a low-impact workout presented by a council member. ‘Walk and Talk with the Mayor’ invites residents to ask questions and air concerns to the mayor and other town officials. It begins at the north end of the boardwalk and travels the entire length—a 2.4 mile round trip.

The Upper Saddle River MWC has developed several programs to help their residents get walking. ‘The Path to Fitness’ is an individual walking program completed by residents on their own time. The town kicks off the program annually at their Upper Saddle River Day celebration. Pedometers, logs, and instructions and tips are given out to those wishing to start an individual walking program. This past year, a Girl Scout completing her gold project started a Saturday walking club for community members. Fifth grade students complete a yearly River Day walk organized through the borough’s Environmental Committee. Residents of all ages participate in Arya’s Walk, an annual walk-a-thon to raise funds for pediatric cancer research.

Many other towns have developed programs through their local Mayors Wellness Campaigns that involve getting their residents moving and walking. Hamilton (Mercer) and Northfield have walks with their mayors and council members throughout the year. Hillsborough has teamed up with the American Heart Association for an annual Heartwalk, and Hillsdale holds walks in conjunction with Walk Around Town. Nutley gets young residents walking with Walk to School Wednesdays and their Nutley Fit Kids program. Franklin Lakes hosts annual 5K fitness run/walks.

That is just a sample of the great work our MWC towns are doing to bring wellness to their communities. We are always looking for model towns to showcase. Please go to today to nominate your town to be one of New Jersey’s 10 Best Towns for Walking. We look forward to reading your entries and choosing our winners! The winning towns will be announced this fall.


Originally published in New Jersey Municipalities, Volume 89, Number 3, March 2012


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