Gov. Pat Quinn on Jan. 2 announced the “Walk Across Illinois Challenge,” an initiative to help improve the health and wellness of Illinois residents.



Quinn finally had an idea that is sound.


Gov. Pat Quinn on Jan. 2 announced the “Walk Across Illinois Challenge,” an initiative to help improve the health and wellness of Illinois residents.

Quinn finally had an idea that is sound.

Quinn walked 167 miles across Illinois 10 years ago to advocate on behalf of decent health care for all people. Now, Quinn calls on state residents to walk 167 miles during 2012 to improve their own health.

I’d like Quinn to go beyond addressing our physical health and do something in this vein for our fiscal health.    

For our fiscal health I’d like to see the governor go walking with a blindfold at Starved Rock State Park if you get my meaning. It wouldn’t be so bad if he invited Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan to accompany him.

But, that is off the point.

“As the New Year gets under way, many Illinois residents are already making the commitment to get fit and live healthier,” Gov. Quinn said. “Together, we can make 2012 a year of fitness by accepting the challenge to add a half-mile of walking to each day.”
Illinois residents can accept the “Walk Across Illinois Challenge” by visiting www.WalkAcrossIllinois.org, where they can register and log their miles.

That’s not a bad idea at all.

I walk a lot. I love it. I mean it. I really love it.

 Walking is, for me, a most relaxing activity. It is a wonderful activity my maternal grandfather introduced me too. I’ve never outgrown it.

When I was dating my wife I walked from Pekin to Marquette Heights to see her. I walked once from Morton to Bellvue on a dare at night through downtown Peoria, which was probably not one of my wisest decisions. I walked into the mouth of Haleakula, a dormant volcano on Maui. It was a six-hour hike.  

I have no idea how many miles I’ve walked in my lifetime. But, it’s a lot. If I can walk I do.

Therefore, I consider myself an expert on walking. So, I decided I would look at Metamora, Eureka and Germantown Hills in terms of walkability.

However, I wanted independent guidelines on what constitutes a walkable community. The website www.healthyalberta.com offered guidelines.

The most important factor for walkability, according to the website, is density. People are encouraged to leave the car at home when buildings and facilities are close to each other.

The website says street design is the next component. “Straight-running streets and avenues (a grid pattern) have corners at the end of each block, giving you a choice of four directions to travel in. Curved streets with cul-de-sacs, on the other hand, can be harder to walk in. There are not as many paths directly connecting one road to another. Sometimes you have to walk a long way to get to a main street that connects you with other cul-de-sacs,” the website says.

Central meeting areas — like a park, playground or a community hall — where people gather is also important, the website says.

Many nearby shops and services that residents need: for example, a grocery store, a library, a drugstore and schools, are important.
Metamora and Eureka meet all those criteria in my mind.

Metamora is especially walker-friendly. The Square and all the streets that lead off of it encourage walking. Even a walk from the Square to the IGA is not out of reason as long as you don’t need a week’s groceries.

Metamora has the biking and walking trail behind Metamora Fields to boot.    

But, the best walking opportunity there is to be found at Black Partridge Park.

Based on those criteria and my experience walking in Metamora I would give the village an A-plus.

Eureka is not laid out for walking as well as Metamora. But, the community has decent sidewalks. And, Eureka has something that was not mentioned in the website’s criteria that is very important to me — eye-candy.

Eureka has eye-candy for the walker. Almost wherever you turn in Eureka there is something interesting to look at. It just requires being observant. The older portions of Eureka are especially rewarding to walk through. For that reason I give Eureka an A-minus.  

So, where does that leave Germantown Hills?

Germantown Hills meets none of the website’s criteria in my view. Yet, I’d still give the community a B-minus. That’s because I am not judging Germantown Hills based on those criteria alone.

The issues mentioned at the website are for those who walk without taking into account the sheer pleasure walking can provide.

Having done some walking in Germantown Hills the grade I gave the community is not as low as one might expect given the criticisms of walkability I have heard from residents.

Sidewalks are almost nonexistent in the village. And it appears to be a linear community as viewed from Route 116.

But, once you get off the highway and back into some of the older neighborhoods in the community there is incredible eye-candy.
Germantown Hills in places off the beaten track rivals Black Partridge Park in terms of natural beauty.

And, even along Route 116 there are very nice, safe and scenic walking opportunities on the access roads running along the highway.  

I give Germantown Hills a B-minus on walkability only because it takes more effort to walk there. Germantown Hills has eye-candy on par with Metamora and Eureka.

The truth is these grades don’t matter. Sidewalks make walking easier. But a worthwhile journey — or effort at living healthier — comes one step at a time, and sidewalks are not required for either.