April snow

David Gelles of Windber braves the cold and snow as he walks his dog, Baxter, around Windber Recreation Park on Friday, April 8, 2016.

WINDBER – Steps are being taken to add a state-promoted walking route through Windber Recreation Park, as part of an effort to build healthier communities across Pennsylvania.

Windber and two other western Pennsylvania communities were chosen to join the WalkWorks network – created by the Department of Health and University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health to promote physical activity and encourage communities to create walking groups within their neighborhoods.

“This is great news,” Windber Mayor Michael Thomas said. 

“We are truly excited about being selected to be a part of a program that encourages our residents to take steps toward a healthier lifestyle and look forward to working with WalkWorks to implement this initiative in our community.”

 The city of Washington in Washington County and Guthrie Clinic, Bradford County, were also chosen to be added to the WalkWorks network, which included more than 85 routes in 17 counties, project partners said.

“These communities demonstrated their commitment to expanding opportunities for physical activity in the built environment,” said Carol Reichbaum, the Pitt Health Center’s WalkWorks director.

Through the effort, the program provides colorful signage for existing trails chosen as WalkWorks routes, promotional materials to market them and technical assistance to help communities launch the program. 

Borough Manager Jim Furmanchik said Thomas, Recreation Director Matt Grohal and Chan Soon-Shiong Medical Center Development Coordinator Kim Oleksa will work with the project’s organizers to get the route ready next year.

“It’s a great fit for our community that will allow our residents to take a step toward healthier lifestyles,” he said.

Anyone interested in finding WalkWorks routes throughout the state can visit www.health.pa.gov/topics/programs/WalkWorks/Pages/WalkWorks.aspx

Thomas said the sprawling Windber Recreation Park just north of town seemed like the perfect choice for the 2-mile path. It’s in a safe, walkable location that’s already used by local walkers and joggers, he added.

If all goes as planned, a 1-mile loop will be developed using existing pathways and other walking areas would branch off alongside it, Thomas said.

Signs likely won’t be added until next year, he said.

“Hopefully, it gives people one more reason to visit the park,” Thomas said.

David Hurst is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5053. Follow him on Twitter @TDDavidHurst and Instagram @TDDavidHurst.

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