Highmark Awards Grant to County-wide Healthy Communities Initiative

Erie Yesterday recently received a $20,000 grant from Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield in support of the Let’s Move Outside! Erie County Recreational Passport. The Let’s Move Outside! Erie County Recreational Passport is a collaborative program of Erie Yesterday, Erie County Health Department and VisitErie, and is Erie County’s pilot initiative as a Let’s Move! County. It weaves together art, heritage and healthy living. The overarching goal of the program is to promote outdoor physical activity to people of all ages who live in Erie County.

“Participating in regular physical activity is one of the keys to developing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle,” said Jim Martin, Highmark’s director of community affairs. “Through our support of this program, we hope to encourage individuals to take advantage of our local parks and trails by using them as a place where they can exercise while enjoying the beautiful scenery of our community.”

The LMO! Passport uses ten Erie County walking/biking trails, including rural trails in Union City Area School District, Fairview Township, Washington Township, Asbury Woods Nature Center and Harborcreek Township and urban trails in the City of Erie, North East, Corry, Waterford and Girard. The LMO! passport has trail maps, trail information, local history content and other interesting things to see and do within each trail community, and will be available at locations throughout Erie County during the summer.

A trail marker placed near the middle of each trail will serve two purposes: to identify the trail as a passport trail and present necessary program information. Local artist Tom Ferraro designed and constructed ten public art pieces which will serve as the LMO! trail markers. Using methods he learned as a residency artist, Mr. Ferraro engaged youth from each trail community in the design process. Markers are scheduled for installation in May.

Why? In 2010, First Lady Obama launched Let’s Move!, a national campaign encouraging counties, cities and communities to use local resources such as museums, parks, trails and schools to help children and adults be more active. Erie County offers many opportunities for recreation and fitness with more than 140 parks and trails, dozens of annual walks, runs and outdoor clubs, and many cultural sites and attractions to explore. Despite these great opportunities for physical activity and outdoor fun, Erie County joins communities throughout the nation in the “battle of the bulge.” The 2009 Erie County Adult Profile found that 65% of all Erie County adults are overweight or obese. Recent data from the Pennsylvania Department of Health Growth Screens 2007-2008 shows that the City of Erie has some of the lowest percentages of healthy body weight among school-aged children.

How will it work? STEP #1: You are asked to register and create a profile on the LMO! website (letsmoveoutside.org). Registration gives you access to coupons redeemable at businesses within trail communities, and allows you to document your progress. STEP #2: Walk the trails. You must locate prize keys located on each trail marker and log it in your profile. Once you enter all ten prize keys, you are automatically entered into a grand prize drawing and can win a mountain bike or one of several other great prizes. The program will run June 1st through October 20th, 2012, and is supported by Highmark and many other local businesses and community partners, such as ArtsErie, The Erie Community Foundation, Eriez Magnetics, Lilly Broadcasting, EnjoyErie.com.

Behind the Scenes
The LMO! planning team is working with ten community teams which have agreed to identify locations for trail markers and assist with installation, provide content for both the printed passport and the LMO! website, assist with distributing passports and other print materials, and offer general support to the project. Each team consists of 3-4 members, many of whom are historical society/museum volunteers, borough managers, township supervisors, community leaders, and art teachers.

Organizational partners, such as the YMCA of Greater Erie, Erie County Public Library System, Tom Ridge Environmental Center, Stairways Behavioral Health/Center City Arts, Erie Center on Health and Aging, the French Creek Council (BSA), Girl Scouts of Western PA and Lake Erie Regional Conservancy are committed to engaging the broader community in the LMO! program and making Erie County a Let’s Move! community.

The official launch of the Let’s Move Outside! Erie County Recreational Passport is Monday, April 30th 4:00-6:00 pm at Center City Arts, W. 26th and Holland Streets.

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