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East Bay Regional Park District 2008 Trails Challenge Program is a partnership with Kaiser Permanente to encourage residents to get active for health.

arrow This project was nominated for a Partnership Award as part of the 2008 National Trails Awards, announced at the 19th National Trails Symposium in Little Rock, Arkansas.

 

East Bay Park District and Kaiser Permanente sponsor "Trails Challenge"


photo of young people with sporting gear

Young people showing some of the ways to enjoy being active on trails

 

The East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) is the largest local park agency in the United States with 65 parks, over 98,000 acres, and I, I00 miles of trails in Alameda and Contra Costa counties known as the East Bay of San Francisco. An important goal of EBRPD's General Manager and Board of Directors is to promote a healthful and physically active lifestyle to the 2 million+ residents within its jurisdiction. One way to do this was to use an existing program called the "Annual Trails Challenge"— a self-guided hiking program with an average of 1,000 to 2,000 registrants each year - and communicate the health benefits of joining the program and taking a hike.

The goal was to increase the awareness of trails in the East Bay and encourage use. To deliver this message, EBRPD sought the assistance of a health-minded corporation and partnered with Kaiser Permanente of Northern California. Kaiser Permanente (KP) is an integrated managed care organization, based in Oakland, California. It is the nation's biggest health maintenance organization. KP places a strong emphasis on preventative care, reducing costs later on. According to KP representatives, one of their core values has always been to improve the health of the community, as well as the health of their members. KP officials saw a real benefit in the Park District's Trails Challenge Program.

The trails challenge is a self-guided hiking program that includes a booklet showcasing 20 of the best hikes in the Park District determined by staff, volunteers, and frequent trail users. Each hike is described in a two-page park and trail overview that includes trail features, interesting historic or nature facts, driving directions, and a trail map. The booklet also includes helpful guidelines and tips on trail etiquette and safety. Many of the trails are accessible by bike, stroller, in-line skates, and push scooters as well, which encourages families with kids to get outdoors. The program also comes with a t-shirt and small gift.

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The year 2008 was the 15th Anniversary of EBRPD's Trails
Challenge


"We found that people wanted to get outside, knew there were trails and parks near their homes, but didn't know how to get started," says EBRPD General Manager Pat O'Brien. "The Trails Challenge Program was designed to make it easy to get to a trail head, know where to go, and offer some unique historic and ecological facts as welL"

During the spring and summer, Park District naturalists lead Trails Challenge group hikes on the weekends. In previous years, EBRPD charged a $15 program registration fee to cover the cost of the booklet and at-shirt for each participant.

The year 2008 was the 15th Anniversary of EBRPD's Trails Challenge and in celebration, KP donated $95,000 to support the program and fund other EBRPD health-oriented projects, such as a Kid's Challenge Program promoting getting kids outdoors. The registration fee for the 2008 Trails Challenge program was waived and promotion began in January within the East Bay.

Kaiser marketed this program to their 35,000 employees in the Bay Area. Their medical staff showcased Trails Challenge as a way to get kids and families outside to combat obesity. Thanks to funding from KP, EBRPD created a flyer and local newspaper advertisements. Press releases were sent to local media and the program was positively mentioned in local newspapers and radio talk shows.

By May 13th, registration had reached the cap of 5,000 East Bay residents— double the previous enrollment for 2007. Registrants received a 15th anniversary t-shirt, KP hiking bag, and the 2008 guidebook. EBRPD then placed the guidebook on its website as a downloadable file so others could participate throughout the year. EBRPD's recreation staff spent many long hours processing thousands of registrations in just a few weeks. According to Recreation Supervisor, Joe Stack, the Kaiser promotion pushed the program to a new limit with many registrants firsttime trail users.

"As a society, we won't get people more physically active unless we create an environment that supports a healthier lifestyle," says O'Brien. "That environment exists within EBRPD, with programs in place to encourage healthful activities. Thanks to a partnership with a well-known health organization like Kaiser, we can tell that story to thousands of residents and get them outside, exercising on some of the best trails around."

Trails Challenge 2010

The Trails Challenge program for 2010 continues with Kaiser Permanente as a major sponsor, enabling EBRPD to offer free program materials. This is a self-paced program, designed to get people fit and into the great outdoors. With registration, citizens will receive access to download the guidebook, instructions on how to receive a free T-shirt, and web links to view trail routes on Google Maps. A commemorative pin will be sent upon completion ofthe Challenge, and pins will be mailed out in the fall (while supplies last). The Trails Challenge program challenges participants to travel 26.2 miles of trails or 5 of the trails featured in the guide booklet by December 1, 2010.

For more information visit http://www.ebparks.org/

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