Walk Midland encourages movement, making connections with neighbors and nature

Staying active is important in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but it’s not always easy or fun. The Walk Midland series is a free drop-in program that encourages residents to walk two miles at a variety of rotating outdoor locations nearby. Running now through August 7, the City of Midland presents Walk Midland, in partnership with Midland Parks and Recreation, MyMichigan Health, Chippewa Nature Center, Greater Midland Corporate Wellness, Little Forks Conservancy, and Northwood University. 

Each week, participants check in with a volunteer at the various locations. At the end of their two-mile walk, they are entered to win prizes for a local ice cream spot or coffee shop. At the end of the series, they’ll be entered to win a grand prize gift basket. 

Marcie Post, assistant director of public services at the City of Midland, says the Walk Midland series started in the ‘80s. 

“This is my 17th summer with the Walk Midland program, and over the years, I’ve grown it to include several sites around the city to give people more opportunities,” Post says. 

Over the years, Post has noticed the benefits to participants, both physically and mentally. There are even social benefits to the all-ages, drop-in program too.

“A lot of people have made friends at this program,” she says. “Some of our walkers now meet up and walk together. It gives people the opportunity to meet other people in our city and give them more accountability partners.”

The summer program has been so successful and integral to some community members that the City of Midland has also launched a fall walking series too, called Step Into Fall. 

“Last year, we ended up creating a fall continuation program because people loved the opportunity to stay active so much,” she says. “We’ll likely do that again this fall.”

Chippewa Nature Center reached out to Post about 10 or 11 years ago to join in as a participating venue within the series. 

Post encourages participants to stay up to date in case of rain cancellations, via the City of Midland hotline. 

Jenn Kirts, director of programs at Chippewa Nature Center, says their location has a two-mile trail loop and a one-mile paved path. The nonprofit nature center is open seven days a week and is available to residents at no cost. 

“We partner with the City of Midland on a lot of different things, and it’s a really natural partnership for us to encourage people to walk outdoors,” Kirts says. “Some participants come on their own or bring a friend, neighbor, or spouse along and really enjoy it. It’s fitness plus social, plus time outdoors — and that seems to be the theme that everyone enjoys.”

Kirts says the series helps build a sense of community and place by providing an opportunity to meet people with similar interests and explore new outdoor locations. 

“We’re very fortunate that the City of Midland has a huge variety of trails and settings from downtown to the rail trails, to the nature center trails, the MyMichigan Health trails, the city and county trails,” she says. “There are tons of choices for people to choose something that’s comfortable and to spend a little bit of time outside.”

The Midland Walk summer series schedule is as follows: The City Forest (unpaved path) at 6 p.m. on Mondays, Northwood University (paved path) at noon on Tuesdays, Stratford Woods Park (unpaved path) at 6 p.m. on Tuesdays, Averill Preserve Trailhead (paved and unpaved paths) at noon on Wednesdays, Chippewa Nature Center(paved and unpaved paths) at 6 p.m. on Wednesdays, MyMichigan Health Center (paved path) at noon on Thursdays, East End Building (paved path) at 8 a.m. on Fridays, and Tridge Trailhead (paved path) at 6 p.m. on Sundays.

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Sarah Spohn is a Lansing native, but every day finds a new interesting person, place, or thing in towns all over Michigan, leaving her truly smitten with the mitten. She received her degrees in journalism and professional communications and provides coverage for various publications locally, regionally, and nationally — writing stories on small businesses, arts and culture, dining, community, and anything Michigan-made. You can find her in a record shop, a local concert, or eating one too many desserts at a bakery. If by chance, she’s not at any of those places, you can contact her at sarahspohn.news@gmail.com.