To put it in perspective, participants would have walked the entire length of the North Country Trail (4,600 miles) more than 15 times.
The Step it Up Fall Colors program challenged participants to walk 225 miles over a seven-week period. Every step participants took throughout the challenge counted toward their end goal.
The 225-mile challenge represented a virtual hike along a Michigan segment of the North Country Trail. As participants recorded their weekly activity, they could also track their progress along the trail by using an interactive map that Ottawa County's IT/GIS Department created.
In an effort to help participants get their steps in each week, they were invited to weekly group walks at several Ottawa County parks, led by parks naturalist guides.
"We've been so pleased with the results of Step it Up this year," said County public health educator Amy Sheele. "It has really motivated participants to get moving and visit more parks. Of the individuals that completed our program surveys, nearly 40 percent reported an increase in their level of physical activity from the beginning of the Step It Up Challenge to the end. The average participant walked 216 miles over seven weeks."
A Healthy Catalyst Grant Award was awarded to Ottawa County Parks through mParks and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, allowing the fall program to continue to be offered to participants free of charge. Grant funding covered the cost of walking guides, route signage, Fitbits for weekly incentives, water bottles for participants and a celebration at the end of the challenge.
Grant funding has been secured by the Ottawa County Department of Public Health to continue the program in the coming spring and fall. Those interested can sign up to learn more by subscribing to miOttawa.org/Connect. The spring program will be launched in April.
"Step it Up is a great example of collaboration in our local government," county parks spokeswoman Jessica VanGinhoven said. "Across many departments, we have been able to work together to create a program that is effective and enjoyable, and funded through existing grants. We are excited to offer it again in 2017."
Additionally, the following guided winter walks are offered at Ottawa County Parks:
• Jan. 17, 9:30-10:30 a.m. at Grand Ravines North
• Jan. 19, 5:30-6:30 p.m. at Pine Bend County Park
• Jan. 27, 9:30-10:30 a.m. at North Ottawa Dunes
• Feb. 7, 9:30-10:30 a.m. at Riverside Park
• Feb. 24, 5:30-6:30 p.m. at Upper Macatawa Natural Area
• March 2, 5:30-6:30 p.m. at Grand Ravines Park