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New program provides year-round walking groups

Krystle Wagner • Aug 5, 2019 at 2:00 PM

There’s a new free walking program for people to take advantage of throughout the county.

Ottawa Walks was launched as a result of requests from Step It Up participants, who asked for a year-round walking program, said Amy Sheele, a health educator for the Ottawa County Department of Public Health. The new program offers nine walks free to the public.

“We don’t have the capacity or funding to make Step It Up year-round, but feel like Ottawa Walks will give people the opportunity to participate in neighborhood group walks all year,” Sheele said.

Step It Up is a free eight-week program aimed at getting people active and outdoors in local parks. Depending on funding, Sheele said they hope to offer it next spring.

Ottawa Walks volunteers lead walks throughout the county each week. Registration isn’t required, unless otherwise noted.

Ottawa County Parks spokesperson Jessica VanGinhoven said they anticipate having quarterly meetings to assess the walks and make changes, if needed.

As seasons change, VanGinhoven encourages people to check the schedule for updates. The schedule is available online at miottawa.org/OttawaWalks.

Ottawa Walks had a rolling start, with some locations beginning after the Step It Up program concluded. Volunteers were trained by the Step It Up naturalist guides.

In the Tri-Cities area, a group meets at 6 p.m. Mondays at Duncan Memorial Park in Grand Haven for a 3-mile walk. Another group meets at 10:30 a.m. Fridays in Spring Lake’s Central Park, and they follow the bike path for about an hour.

Walks are held rain or shine, with the exception of thunderstorms or if the heat exceeds 95 degrees.

Since June, Spring Lake resident Jane DeGroot has run the weekly walk in Spring Lake. DeGroot said she volunteered because she wanted to meet new people who have similar interests, and who like to walk and learn about the community.

“I think it’s a neat way to get to know other people and learn about different parks,” she said.

Each week, at least one new person joins the Spring Lake walk, which has had as many as seven participants at once. DeGroot noted that the program is open to all people, and the time passes quickly.

“There’s a lot to gain from participating in a weekly hour-long walk,” she said.

While the program has drawn a “small number” of participants so far, organizers hope to establish consistent participants and bring first-time participants. Sheele said everyone is welcome, and they encourage all fitness levels to join.

By providing walks at different times, days and places, Sheele said they hope there’s a walk for everyone.

“Our hope is that participants will have increased access to physical activity, enjoy the outdoors, build a sense of community and explore new parks,” she said.

Other walks take place in Jenison, Holland Township and West Olive.

Here’s a list of the walks:

Northwest

6 p.m. Mondays in Duncan Woods, Grand Haven: The walks begin at the Sheldon Road entrance and last about 3 miles.

10:30 a.m. Fridays in Central Park, Spring Lake: Walks follow the bike path and last about an hour.

Northeast

6 p.m. Tuesdays in the Grand Ravines North, Jenison: The group meets near the lodge’s bathrooms.

8:30 a.m. Wednesdays at Grand Ravines South, Jenison: The group meets near the windmill.

Southwest

5:30 p.m. Thursdays at 112th/Riley neighborhood in Holland Township: The group meets at the corner of Cornerstone Lane and 112th Avenue. The walk is about 1 mile on paved streets, and it can be repeated.

6 p.m. Thursdays at Hemlock Crossing in West Olive: The group explores different trails and observes wildlife. Walks last about an hour. Participants are encouraged to wear protective clothing or mosquito repellent.

Southeast

5:30 p.m. Wednesdays at various locations: A registered dietitian participates in the walk. Registration for this walk is required to receive a schedule. Call 616-748-2834.

5:30 p.m. Thursdays at Upper Macatawa Natural Area: The group meets at the 84th Avenue entrance.

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