New Trail Finder Highlights Walking Trails in The County
Towson, Maryland (July 16, 2014) – This morning Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz led a number of officials and community leaders on a short trail walk at the Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum in Catonsville to highlight the County's new Trail Finder website application and call attention to the importance of exercise in combating childhood obesity.
New Interactive Web Feature
The new website feature enables people to easily locate trails, paths and other family-friendly locations for walking in Baltimore County. The application, which may be accessed at baltimorecountymd.gov/trailfinder, includes a navigable countywide map of walking sites, and allows users to search based on ZIP code, community name and site name. A convenient link to Google Maps is provided for each location, offering easy access to directions to the sites, site maps in PDF format and contact information.
There are 80 sites included in Trail Finder, including:
- County parks
- County public school recreation centers
- Shopping malls and other private sites
- City reservoir lands
- State parks, natural environment areas and wild lands
There are no user fees for the vast majority of the sites included in the Trail Finder application. The application includes one featured trail for each of the county parks sites, and for many parks, the included park map PDF shows other trails and paths that are available on-site.
The new web feature was designed in-house as a coordinated effort of Baltimore County's Department of Recreation and Parks, Office of Information Technology (OIT) and the Baltimore County Health Coalition and will continue to be expanded over time, with additional sites, trails, paths and information added.
The Baltimore County Health Coalition's Physical Activity Sub-Committee worked with project managers from Baltimore County's Recreation and Parks Department and OIT to certify almost all of the sites. Sites are certified if the walking route is a half mile or longer, though some convenient loops that may be easily walked in multiple laps were also included – including the popular tracks at public high schools throughout the County.
Benefits of Family Exercise
The concept for the Trail Finder web feature had its roots in the Baltimore County Health Coalition, which has initiated an effort to encourage families to walk together to help combat childhood obesity.
According to a study cited by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), children ages eight to 18 spend approximately seven and a half hours in front of a screen each day, yet researchers have determined that children spend an average of just four to seven minutes a day in unstructured outdoor play.
"The data is clear – we all need more exercise – and what better way to 'get it in' than 'getting out' into the great outdoors?" said County Executive Kamenetz.
Baltimore County's Director of Health and Human Services, Dr. Gregory Wm. Branch noted that 12 percent of Baltimore County children are obese, according to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
"One of the priorities for the Baltimore County Health Coalition, which is made up of government agencies such as the Department of Recreation and Parks, hospitals and private organizations, is to reduce childhood obesity, and the launching of the Baltimore County Trail Finder is a prime example of a problem being addressed through a cooperative effort."
The launch of Trail Finder coincides with July being named National Park and Recreation Month by the National Recreation and Parks Association.
"The theme for National Parks and Recreation Month is 'out is in,' and our new Trail Finder gives families a great tool to find a nice place near their home to enjoy nature and exercise together," said Baltimore County Director of Recreation and Parks Barry F. Williams.
The Trail Finder application and initiative supports the Baltimore County Health Coalition's "Local Action Plan," whose guiding vision is "healthy people living, working and playing in Baltimore County." There is a direct connection between this initiative and the Coalition's mission to promote health and prevent disease through education, advocacy and connecting to resources to improve the quality of life for Baltimore County residents.
"Walking and biking trails are key in attracting and retaining families to a community," said First District Councilman Tom Quirk. "Not only do they promote good community engagement, they also foster more healthy living and keep property values strong."