Walk Your Way Around Portage County

Our walkable community is poised to respond to the Surgeon General 

Only half of American adults get the amount of physical activity that improves wellbeing (better sleep, mood, thinking, etc.) and health (lower risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, etc.). That’s why on Sept 9th the US Surgeon General issued Step It Up!, a call to action to promote walking and walkable communities.  The idea is to support communities in making walking or wheelchair rolling safer and more accessible to everyone.  I looked at the action steps recommended by the Surgeon General and they reminded me of our community!  We have so much already in place and there are many movements afoot that promise to make Portage County communities even more walkable.

Where can we walk?  The Stevens Point Area Convention & Visitor Bureau (SPACVB) has a searchable directory of events and trails.  To find trails, click Outdoor Recreation, then Our Land, then search for trails.  You’ll get a listing with info on whether dogs are allowed, if it’s handicap accessible, other activities available along the trail (such as fishing), and links to contact info, website, and a map.

You can also search the SPACVB calendar for walking and hiking events.   Active Portage County has listings too such as the upcoming Moon Walk and events at Standing Rocks park.  Some people like to participate in organized events for social reasons: their physical activity acquires additional purpose and meaning by coming together as a community to support a cause, whether it’s Alzheimer’s awareness, raising money for cancer research, or any number of local organizations such as the Ice Age Trail .  Not only does IAT hold hike-a-thons of various distances to accommodate all fitness and interest levels, but you can also be active by volunteering to maintain the trail so it can continue to be a walking paradise for everyone.  Being active can be more than just about moving; it can be in the service of others and ideas beyond our own personal health.

A lot is offered in town too. The Green Circle trail is accessible to most of the City.  A new Stevens Point walking map available at SPACVB and portagecountycan.org  suggests several routes of about 1 mile that visitors, residents, and employees can use to take a walking break, hold a walking meeting, or fit more walking into what they normally do.

I am further inspired by recent movements that promise to enhance the walkability of our community.  On September 21st the recommendations of the Portage County Bicycle / Pedestrian Plan were adopted into the City of Stevens Point’s own plan.  This enables the City to increase pedestrian safety, invest in more infrastructures (e.g., better sidewalks), more Safe Routes to School programs, greater connectivity and access to the Green Circle Trail, among other things that will make walking easier, safer, more enjoyable for everyone.  Stay informed or get involved: stevenspoint.com/ for minutes and agendas for the City’s Bike/Ped Advisory Committee and other meetings.

Annie Wetter, Chair of the School of Health Promotion & Human Development at UWSP, is President of Portage County Can, a coalition of community businesses, organizations and individuals committed to promoting healthy eating and physical activity in Portage County.