Newly installed park maps help residents walk for wellness
As winter melts into spring, lace up those walking shoes and hit the trails for some fresh air and exercise. Whether or not you’re working toward a weight-loss goal, you’ll reap the physical and psychological benefits of exercising in nature.
Walking is the most universal of any workout plan and the beginning step for those new to regular exercise. The act of walking has many physical benefits but to name a few, strengthens your muscles and bones and lowers blood pressure and cholesterol. Exercising also has an effect on your mental state, improving your mood and sleep and lowering stress and anxiety.
Research also shows similar results to nature’s impact on wellness, so much so that a nationally-trending “park prescription” program encourages doctors to prescribe patients a walk in nature to feel better.
And now replacing the treadmill with a trail is even easier with St. Charles Park District’s newly installed park maps that illustrate the routes and distance of walking loops.
“There are so many opportunities to get fit in your own backyard,” said Laura Rudow, Superintendent of Parks and Planning, Deputy Director. “Nature is everywhere. Put your sneakers on, and go for a walk.”
St. Charles Park District boasts 20+ miles of trails that meander through the many community parks and natural areas and also join up with other regional paths such as the Fox River Trail and Great Western Trail.
Seven of the St. Charles parks have walking maps, including River Bend Community Park, East Side Sports Complex, Mt. St. Mary Park, Delnor Woods Park, Fox Chase Park, Pottawatomie Park and Primrose Farm Park – each offering its own diverse experience in nature.
For example, Pottwatomie’s walking trail is .56 miles, where walkers can enjoy the scenic view from the stretch of trail along 2nd Avenue, then wind through the park under a canopy of trees, stroll along the river and circle back around the playground, tennis courts and Gaffney Field.
Delnor Woods’ .66 miles of trail envelops walkers in the tranquility of the forest, before stretching out into open spaces and taking you through grasslands and wetlands. The 42-acre park off of Route 25 also features the Timeless Tags dog memorial, shelter and playground.
The East Side Sports Complex walking loop of 1.73 miles allows walkers to get caught up on their steps while their children attend practice. The South Loop circles the softball and baseball fields and wetland area to the east, while the mile long North Loop rounds the sports fields, fishing pond and dog park.
Primrose Farm’s walking loop is 2.2 miles total. If you park by Spriet Athletic Fields off Bolcum Road you may feel you’re in a typical community park but as you head south, you’ll soon appreciate this unique agricultural landscape of more than 100 acres. Along the trail you’ll pass the community gardens, fruit orchard and farm plaza. Take a break and visit the farm animals before continuing along the perimeter of the grounds with trees on one side and fields on the other giving you the perfect view of a beautiful sunrise or sunset.
For a quick reference to the walking trail maps, look up the seven parks at www.stcpark.org
Hickory Knolls is another natural area that is abundant with a diverse landscape and wildlife seen from its trails that criss-cross through 131 acres. Trail maps are available inside the Discovery Center and at www.stcnature.org
Walkers and hikers alike will experience a diverse topography, including hills, and a variety of habitats such as wetlands, woodlands and prairie. This landscape supports an abundant wildlife including deer and fawn, owls, sandhill cranes, warblers, and native pollinators such as bees and butterflies.
“The beautiful thing about nature is it’s constantly growing and changing and emerging throughout the seasons. It’s a different experience every time,” said Chris Gingrich, Assistant Superintendent of Outdoor Education.
“While exploring, it’s nice to disconnect by fully absorbing your surroundings, taking in the sights and smells and diversity of the landscape,” added Pam Otto, Hickory Knolls Manager of Nature Programs and Interpretive Services.
While anyone can set out to blaze their own trails, another way is through the Happy Hikers group, which meets every Wednesday morning at Hickory Knolls to explore the terrain together. A staff member leads the group, but acts as a resource rather than taking hikers on a “guided walk,” according to Otto. Meeting times vary by season. For more information, call 630-513-4399.
For online maps of the walking trails or more information, visit www.stcparks.org