Park People recently launched A Walk in the Park, a program to establish community-led walking programs in parks across Toronto. The program will help train walk-leaders and support them in leading walks that connect older adults, seniors, and newcomers with easily accessible walking activities in their local parks and ravines to improve the participants’ fitness and to help them form new, valuable and long-lasting social connections.

I had the pleasure of joining the Rowntree Mills walking group on their debut walk through Rowntree Mills along the Humber River. It was my chance to get a first-hand look at the program and experience it as a participant.

Gathering Together:

After some unseasonably warm weather, the morning in question was cool, grey and blustery. I wasn’t sure that there would be much of a turnout for the walk, but as I made my way to the meeting spot at Rexdale Women’s Centre, I was happy to find 13 smiling walkers ready to hit the trail. I was warmly greeted by Adassa and Jackie, this group’s enthusiastic leaders. There were snacks, walking sticks and pedometers available for anyone who was interested. Once everyone was signed in, we got on our way.

Getting Walking:

We did a bit of light stretching before descending down the sloped and tree-lined path into the park. Just a few minutes into our route, several ladies shrieked with delight as a young deer wandered into our path before bounding off into the trees. I was playfully teased for not being able to get my camera out fast enough.

As the walk progressed, everyone found their own pace and the group spread out along the trail. Some of the more athletic participants lead the way, while others strolled more leisurely behind, pointing out various birds and plants and exchanging tips on using walking sticks.

Slowing Down to Chat:

I asked one cluster of women what had motivated them to join the walking program. “It’s a nice way to get a little bit of exercise and spend some quality time with our friends,” one woman replied. Another woman chimed in to tell me about her Fit-Bit, saying that these walking groups are “a good way to get those 10,000 steps in for the day!”

Afterward, I caught up with our walk-leaders who said that they were quite pleased with the turn out for their first outing. Adassa said that people were already expressing excitement about walks to come. I very much enjoyed my first official Walk in The Park. It is truly heartwarming to see how such a simple activity can bring people together in such a big way.

We at Park People are looking forward to supporting walks like this one all through the summer and into the fall. We hope you’ll join us for A Walk in the Park near you!

Thank you to our generous funders the Government of Ontario and the Government of Canada. 
 
A huge thanks to our community partners Access Alliance, Rexdale Women’s Center, Delta Family Resource Center, and The City of Toronto Parks, Forestry, and Recreation staff at Stan Wadlow Club House and Earl Bales Community Center for helping us connect with the local community and get the project started.

Thank you to also to the Ontario Trillium Foundation for supporting this program

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