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Oh, the places you’ll go: Becker County businesses participate in walkability pilot study

International Walk to School Day is coming up on Oct. 4, but employees at local businesses have already been making their way around the city of Detroit Lakes on foot for months.

Karen Nitzkorski, worksite wellness and school coordinator with PartnerSHIP for Health, says they’ve developed a pilot program this year and asked some community businesses to test it out, plotting out walking routes around town to see just how “walkable” Detroit Lakes is for its citizens.

The idea is to find easily-walkable routes for people to take on their breaks and each route is categorized according to length, safety, and even how aesthetically pleasing it is to walk.

Emily Buermann, the Becker County Museum’s program director, says they have been partaking in the pilot program at the museum since May 30, focusing on plotting out routes that work for their employees, like walking to the post office to mail things rather than driving there. They also clocked how long it takes to get to various businesses downtown from the museum, and even added a little incentive to get their workers out and moving around.

Nitzkorski says different businesses found different ways to incentivise the pilot program, but Buermann says at the museum they decided to hand out pedometers to their employees and get “a little, healthy competition going.”

“At the end of the program, we’ll have some prizes for the winners,” said Buermann, adding that they’re closing in on the end (the first week in Oct.) and they’ve got a few people who are neck-in-neck with their step count.

However, even after the program ends, Buermann says the walking will continue. Now that they’ve realized how much they enjoy it, they don’t want to stop.

“We take our breaks, and we go for a walk when we can,” said Buermann, adding that they’ve found taking those 15, 20-minute breaks actually makes them more focused. “So it’s actually made us more productive.”

Now walking to businesses close by is actually written into their employee handbook, and it’s here to stay.

The museum, along with the other five businesses involved in the study, (Detroit Lakes Chamber of Commerce, Essentia St. Mary’s, Holmes Theatre, Minnesota Department of Transportation, and Becker County Human Services) have been working all summer to plot out routes in the community, and they will be handing out one of five maps to community members at the Homecoming Parade.

The hope is to get other businesses involved in the movement and get more people out walking around.

The maps show a couple different routes and how long it would take to walk each one, so employees at businesses located on or near the paths could easily use them to incorporate walking into their day.

Walk to school day

The schools will still be participating in International Walk to School Day on Oct. 4.

Physical Education Instructor at Rossman, Mike Daly, says they will be taking the students out on a walk that’s a little over a mile, going down along the beach and then looping back to the school.

Each Detroit Lakes school does something a little differently for the day, but parents are also encouraged to let students walk to school, if they live in town. If they live out of town, Daly says parents are encouraged to park a little farther away from the school and walk their students in.