Walk with Me: Try the Walk Ferguson Challenge

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When you walk through a neighborhood, rather than drive through it on your way to somewhere else, you see it up close and personal. You notice the shingles on a house, or the way the trees have shaped themselves in relationship to the utility wires, or a neighbor out working in his garden.  Or maybe, as we did on one of our dozens of Walk Ferguson walks over the past five months, you meet a young person waiting for a friend or an older gentleman trying to corral his over-excited six-pound yorkie. You come across street work being done. You discover walkways and round-abouts (we’ve encountered two so far). You marvel at all the different types of architecture a single neighborhood can hold.

If this sounds like something that is right up your alley (which is something we don’t have a lot of in Ferguson), please join us for one of our fun #WalkFerguson group forays and discover the secrets this city yields when you walk its neighborhoods. 

People tell me they have seen the Walk Ferguson hashtag – #WalkFerguson – but don’t know what it is or what it means.  The short answer is it’s a walking group.  But it’s also a campaign with a two-fold mission – to get residents, and also visitors, to explore the city and to encourage a healthy walking habit. These two goals guide our route inspirations and our conversations.

According to a variety of organizations that encourage walking groups – such as AARP, Meet-Up, and the American Heart Association, regularly scheduled walking groups can improve a community’s overall fitness but may also invigorate economic development efforts by raising awareness among residents of their neighborhoods and the community’s history. It’s also a great way to make new friends.

Road work on North Barat
Water main replacement on N. Barat.

How did it start?  Several Ferguson residents read about a group in Kirkwood that had started a walking group – socially distanced – during the pandemic, as a way to stay connected to their neighbors.  A discussion on the Ferguson Friends and Neighbors Facebook page resulted in a meeting with Ferg Parks & Rec, and a new partnership was born.  Parks & Rec staff developed a walking challenge and brought SSM Health on board as a sponsor for the 3 Wards – 100 Miles – 365 Days challenge.  The title says it all – if you walk 100 miles, during the year (which ends in October), and hit all three wards, you will be rewarded with better cardio fitness, a new familiarity with your hometown, maybe some new friends – and a prize, courtesy of SSM.  

Don’t let the “100 miles” part spook you.  Even our shortest routes, which take about 30 minutes, cover a mile in distance.  If you walk two miles per week, you’ve made the goal.

How does it work?

First, follow us on Facebook:  Look for the Walk Ferguson group page on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/walkferguson, and request to join.  Each week, no later than Tuesday, we post that week’s route.  On some weeks we do not post a new route, but all the previous routes can be found on the group page. You just have to scroll down to find them.

Round-About
A round-about spotted on a Walk Ferguson route.

Second, you can walk the route on your own, with a group of your own friends, or you can join us on one of two leader-led walks that we do most weeks.  These happen at 4pm on Wednesdays and at 9am on Saturdays. (In the event of bad weather, we will post cancellations on the group page.) If you walk on your own, please share your photos and comments on the Facebook group page. 

Finally, sign up for the Parks & Rec Challenge at www.fergrec.com.   Note:  The challenge has already started, and there are only seven months left, but you can catch up and meet the goal by walking an average of 3.5 miles per week, which you can break down to walking a mile, three to four days per week.  

Measure your distance:  There are lots of mobile apps out there that measure distance.  I have used RunKeeper for years. It’s  free and can be found in your phone’s app store.  But there are many new ones as well – Map My Walk (which allows sharing with other users), the Fitbit mobile app (doesn’t require a Fitbit), Apple Health if you have an iPhone, Google Fit, and All Trails, which as I mentioned in a previous column can help you find trails but also maps and measures your route as you go. (You have to enable location services for any of these apps to work.) 

House
A house spotted on a recent Walk Ferguson route, where the young resident was waiting on a ride.

Volunteer!!  There are currently only two of us leading walks, but we could use a few more walk leaders to help out with this.  No special skills are required – simply take the route with you (on your phone, print a copy, write it out) and navigate through it with your group.  If you can help with this, send me an email at optinpr@gmail.com.  Thank you!

So that’s the background.  Please join us and #WalkFerguson.

Columnist Note: THANK you to Frank Corley for Naming this Column. I had several suggestions but absolutely loved his idea. So from here on out, this Urban Hiking column will be called “Walk with Me.”