Silverton on foot: Walkers promote healthy, engaged lifestyle

April 2019 Posted in Community, Your Health

By Melissa Wagoner

Forty-five people walked a combined 6,000 miles of community roads last year as a part of the Silverton Immanuel Lutheran Church Walking Club.

“We had a map up in the church where they would move their little person,” group founder Mary Miller explained. “There are some people who have never walked and now they are walking.”

Miller got the idea for the group two years ago when she read an article in Living Lutheran about walking with Jesus.

“I took that a step further and invited the congregation and had a competition,” Miller said.

Miller, who is a nurse practitioner specializing in internal medicine, was hoping that by making walking a game it would promote personal fitness while also building community connection both within the church and without.

“It’s not just about health because sometimes when it’s about health it’s ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah,’” she laughed. “Phrase it a different way and they’re excited.”

Miller’s walking groups, which meet mainly in the mornings, aren’t the only ones taking to the streets, however. Recently the Silverton Senior Center also has seen the re-ignition of a previously lapsed group, which has begun meeting at the center Friday mornings at 10:45 a.m. to walk around town or to explore the Oregon Garden.

“What’s nice about the Oregon Garden is it has a variety of terrain,” co-organizer Kathy Hunter said.

“I’ve taken a notepad with me and made notes of plants,” fellow organizer Beth Negrey added. “It’s just a fun place.”

Not everyone needs to be a part of a group to reap the benefits of walking, however, and Douglas Jenkins is one of those who can be seen walking Silverton’s streets solo almost every day of the week.

“I suppose I walk between one and two hours a day when it is all added up,” he calculated. “I walk to take care of my errands and to exercise the dog. I prefer walking to driving when it is practical to do so. I sleep well when I am active.”

Although Jenkins said he tries to avoid walking in the pouring rain, he carries an umbrella and doesn’t let a little inclement weather keep him inside. Crisscrossing Silverton from one end of town to the other, he said he feels mostly safe, spending his time observing his surroundings and enjoying the day.

But walking is not without some risk – not all streets offer sidewalks and pedestrian crossings inherently pose some danger. To insure they are as safe as possible, the Immanuel Lutheran walkers wear reflective clothing and flashing lights for pre-sunrise walks. And avid walker, Kristin Aalbue, who is a self-proclaimed “pedestrian advocate,” suggests that drivers – especially in areas with high foot traffic – carefully follow posted speeds, which allows increased reaction time.

“Make a commitment to going 20 miles an hour in downtown, even if people are honking or whatever,” she advised.
“If you’re in second gear you are going too fast.”

Aalbue, who suffers from chronic pain, has built her life around walking. She does not own a car and commutes via sidewalk to and from her many jobs. Over the years her daily walks have become more than just a way to get around – it’s also a kind of meditation.

“I find the movement to be helpful,” she said. “And it’s such a great way to do all the stuff that you can’t do when you’re driving. I love the pace of life when you walk – there’s no stress. I have time to say hello. When I’m walking around there are 10 times more waves and smiles.”

Miller echoed this sentiment adding,
“I just encourage people to walk together and notice the town. Who sits on their front porch? Say hi to them. Reach out into the community.”

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