Lake County's 'Go' programs growing by 15 communities
The community walking initiative that began two years ago with Go Gurnee, and expanded to Antioch and Waukegan last year, is set to grow a whopping sixfold this year.
Jon Ashworth, Lake County Health Department's health equity coordinator, said this year's goal was to add five communities and increase the number of Go programs in the county to eight. Instead, new Go initiatives will launch in 15 communities, including Grayslake, Deerfield and Mundelein.
Ashworth said he hopes to someday have Go programs in all 52 Lake County communities.
Go is a community program that encourages residents to walk in their neighborhood for 30 minutes every day.
"The ultimate goal is that we do want to encourage community members to develop the habit of walking, even walking moderately for 30 minutes a day, which can make a major difference in your well-being," Ashworth said.
In October, health department officials hosted a workshop to provide a framework for park districts and leaders to help residents become more healthy and active by starting Go programs.
Of the current 18 Go programs, eight have community walks planned to start in the coming weeks. Go Waukegan started its season Saturday.
While the various Go initiatives have the same wellness philosophy and share similar logos and branding, each is different.
Dana Olson, the marketing and community relations coordinator for the Grayslake Park District, said Grayslake's program is going to invite businesses and community groups to set up tables at its kickoff event in Central Park next month.
"By lining the trail in Central Park, we want to show that the community is invested in this. And we need the community to be invested in order to succeed," Olson said, adding organizers already have 12 groups committed to setting up tables.
Gurnee Park District officials started Go Gurnee in May 2016 and it quickly became popular among residents and local leaders. Around 300 community members attended the kickoff event in Viking Park. Organizers encouraged residents to start their 30-minute walk at 6:30 p.m. so the whole community could be out together.
Last year, Gurnee Park District Executive Director Susie Kuruvilla asked the county health department for help growing the Go program beyond Gurnee, something Ashworth said the department was very happy to take on.
The cooperation was commended in November when the Illinois Association of Park Districts awarded the Waukegan Park District, Gurnee Park District and Lake County Health Department with an Intergovernmental Cooperation Best of the Best award for their work on Go Lake County.
With the program in 18 communities this year, Ashworth said he thinks it has the potential to really take off and bring attention to the county. One vision is that Lake County can develop a reputation nationally for having a culture of walking with easy access to walking and biking trails, he said.
"Having a culture across every community of being active and out in nature, we think we could be known as the Colorado of the Midwest," Ashworth said.