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2008 TRAILS FOR HEALTH AWARD WINNER
The award recognizes a community's commitment to improving access to trails and promoting their use and importance for increasing physical activity. The award is for commitment to long term change through community design, trail planning, heightened awareness of active community environments, physical activity promotion, and increased trail use:
Pottstown Health and Wellness Foundation
The Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation is a community organization created as a result of the sale of the Pottstown Memorial Medical Center to Community Health Systems. It is a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve the health and well being of the residents within a 10-mile radius of Pottstown Borough.
The Foundation provides grants to non-profit health and wellness providers from a long-term endowment fund. The grants are awarded to partner organizations to develop and enhance programs that build long-term solutions to the community’s health needs that support their mission in four areas: reducing behavioral risks; improving access to medical services; enhancing formal and informal organizational supports; and improving the physical and social environment.
Believing that trails are an important part of a regional recreation plan, a significant initiative of the Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation’s effort over the past two years has been designed to increase trail use, heighten awareness of the trail, and to encourage physical activity on the Schuylkill River Trail. The Foundation has provided over $160,000, both in grant funding and project costs, in support of the trail since 2006. That includes money to build a 1.8-mile section that linked two existing pieces of trail, and additional funds to promote it for lifelong fitness.
Most recently, the foundation created and distributed brochures and installed signs that encourage use of the trail as part of a healthy lifestyle. The brochures and signs, costing $15,000, are crafted to enable trail users to better assess their exercise goals along the trail by providing information on calories burned and distance covered.
The brochure, placed at trail heads and distributed at various places around the community, incorporates simple tips on goal-setting, trail safety and the benefits of walking. It offers information about the trail, including a trail map. A chart helps people calculate the number of calories burned based on walking speed, and two additional charts translate those calories into food choices. Signs placed along the Trail also contain this information and show food examples to reinforce adoption of an overall healthy lifestyle while reminding people that even those who eat a healthy diet still need exercise. The signs also provide specific information about distance covered. For example, one trail sign in Pottstown’s Riverfront Park states: “Walk west 2.5 miles to the Berks/Montgomery County Line and burn off about 218 calories.” Two additional signs erected at trailheads offer a breakdown of the number of calories a person can burn walking, jogging or biking at various speeds. See Picture 1.jpg for an installed sign picture.
A second Foundation brochure lists area parks and trails within a 15-mile radius of Pottstown, and encourages people to “Take advantage of fitness-oriented activities that are fun, easy and, in most cases, absolutely free.” That brochure directs people to a the Foundation’s Web site “Fitness Guide,” which maps out 36 fitness locations, and provides links for directions and more information. Several access points to the Schuylkill River Trail are included on this map, providing yet another vehicle by which people can become informed about the trail. The web page provides a technological platform to support the network of trails in the Pottstown area, with the Schuylkill River Trail leading the way at 4,000 uses per month. The Foundation also recently distributed T-shirts, imprinted with the Fitness Guide link, to all kindergartners within a 10-mile radius.
The Foundation provided $100,000 for construction of a 1.8 mile piece of the Schuylkill River Trail Thun section, in Berks County. That 1.8 mile piece ran from the Berks/Montgomery County line in Pottstown to Douglassville, and was completed in July 2006. The money also helped fund a trailhead pavilion in Pottstown, completed at the same time.
Also in July 2006, the Pottstown Area Health and Wellness Foundation again promoted the Trail through a $15,000 grant. Brochures were created bearing the title “Tune Up on the Trail: A Prescription for Fitness.” The brochures were distributed to local doctors, and included space for physicians to write a physical activity prescription (i.e. walk on the trail 3x/week). That same grant also supported an event called Docs on a Roll, which coincided with the July 2006 Rails-to-Trails Greenway Bike Sojourn. Doctors from Pottstown Memorial Medical Center, dressed in white medical coats, joined the sojourn as it rode into Pottstown. They helped celebrate the ribbon-cutting for the new trailhead pavilion with speeches about the benefits of exercise. That event provided a vehicle for the health care community to promote the trail as a valuable fitness opportunity.
In October 2007, the foundation awarded the Schuylkill River Heritage Area a $30,000 grant to clean logs and debris that had collected under a former railroad bridge that now serves the Trail. The debris was the result of flooding and threatened the bridge’s integrity.
These efforts by the Pottstown Health and Wellness Foundation deserve national recognition since they have made a comprehensive effort to fund trail and trailhead development, activity on the Trail, and to encourage it early among children and families. From their efforts they have insured that the Trail is available, that people of all age groups will be more aware of its existence, and that the community will perceive it as a tool for improving health and fitness. Through a continual commitment that includes producing signs, brochures, and web information, the Foundation has provided a sense of support to local citizens concerning the Schuylkill River Trail to inspire people to adopt a more active lifestyle.
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Updated December 28, 2008