TRAVERSE CITY — The new Walk & Roll Grand Traverse initiative makes a game of boosting health and enjoying outdoor time.

The free wellness challenge taking place throughout the month of September challenges individuals, families and other groups to get moving and to experience autumn’s splendor at area parklands, trails and preserves.

Extra fun comes from playing the initiative’s wellness bingo. Players earn bingo spots by walking, running, skating, biking or rolling at parks chosen from a list of 25 Grand Traverse public recreation spots. Players work toward a goal of moving 30 minutes a day, five days a week, but there is no minimum. Improved fitness and mental health are the prizes.

“September is a great time for this,” said program coordinator Jennifer McKellar of MSU Extension Grand Traverse. “The weather is cooling, and you can get in more sunshine before the weather turns.”

The bingo card’s center space, and centerpiece of the initiative, is the new LaFranier Loops trail network.The Loops system was created by GT Wellness and funded by a greenspace development grant through the Health Department of Northwest Michigan. Trails weaving through the county-owned property may be accessed from the Health Services Building parking lot on LaFranier Road or off the Terra Road entrance to the Public Services Building.

LaFranier pathways showcase woodlands and meadows and feature a rain garden.Bike racks and benches are available.

“It’s a nice little spot. The trail is under a mile with a few paths cut though,” McKellar said. “It’s a highlight for a neighborhood without a lot of greenspace.”

LaFranier Loops’ grant funding required linking a public activity to the new resource. McKellar said stakeholders put their heads together to develop an activity aligned with COVID-19 restrictions.

“It was designed after consulting community partners that share the same vision — for people to be active outdoors,” she said. “County, city parks and Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy sites were selected to give a variety of places throughout the county.”

Any neighborhood, trail or park qualifies for the challenge, but Walk & Roll highlights some of the county’s prized pathways and green spaces. The 452-acre Maple Bay Park and Natural Area located between Traverse City and Elk Rapids is among these. The preserve managed by Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy features endangered plant species, dunes and a Lake Michigan shoreline.

“Now more than ever people need access to nature nearby,” said Jennifer Jay, GLRLC spokesperson. “It’s bringing people peace and hopefulness.”

The 84-acre Silver Lake Recreation Area managed by Grand Traverse Conservation District offers players scenic trails surrounding Hidden and Silver lakes. The season brings the chance to view migratory birds stopping to rest and feed at the inland waters.

“It’s a great opportunity for people to get out and safely recreate and find peace in today’s chaotic world,” said Tom Vitale, GTCD Parklands Steward.

Vitale said checking off the bingo square for Grand Traverse Natural Education Reserve offers the chance to view Boardman River changes brought about by the removal of Boardman Dam. The removal was largest river restoration project in Michigan’s history.

Beitner Park, located at the southern edge of the Grand Traverse Natural Education Reserve, offers 5 miles of trails to explore. Grand Traverse Commons Recreation and Natural Area situated adjacent to The Village at Grand Traverse Commons offers a trail system winding through woodlands, meadows and beside streams. Other favorite sites included in the challenge are Kids Creek Park, Boardman Lake Trail, Brown Bridge Quiet Area and TART Trail.

McKellar walks the walk when it comes to the initiative.

“I signed up my whole family,” she said. “The kids love logging our time and miles. It’s definitely getting them outside more.”

Register for Walk & Roll online at Log in weekly to record time spent moving and distance traveled.

“It’s a nice little spot. The trail is under a mile with a few paths cut though.
It’s a highlight for a neighborhood without a lot of greenspace.” Program coordinator Jennifer McKellar of MSU Extension Grand Traverse

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