MI Big Green Gym Funding to Improve and Maintain Trails, Parks Throughout Michigan

Julie Bitely

| 5 min read

The second year of MI Big Green Gym – a partnership between Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Michigan Recreation and Park Association, and the Department of Natural Resources – got lots of people moving and enjoying the wonderful outdoor recreation opportunities available in the state of Michigan. Each year, the program encourages Michigan residents to take advantage of the state’s extensive network of quality parks and recreation options. Dan Loepp, Blue Cross President and CEO, and Jeff Connolly, Large Group Business Senior Vice President and West Michigan President, were recently in Traverse City to present a check to the first-place winner of an eight-week Blues Community Challenge that was rolled into the MI Big Green Gym program. Participants in the challenge logged their activity on the Walking Works website. Teams with the most logged activity stood to win extra funding to put toward their parks. Here’s how the competitors stacked up and what they plan to do with the extra funding:

1st Place: Emmet County ( $5,000)

The county plans to use the influx of funds toward year-round maintenance of trails, specifically the Little Traverse Wheelway and the North Western State Trail paved segment from Petoskey to Alanson. “These are heavily used trails and we take great pride in keeping them well-maintained,” said Beth Ann Eckerle, Emmet County’s Director of Communications and Web Development. The county really is an outdoor recreation lover’s dream locale. With miles of public shoreline along Lake Michigan, many inland lakes, extensive trails for walking, biking, and running, and beautifully maintained nature preserves through the Little Traverse Conservancy open to the public for year round hiking, snowshoeing, and exploring, county residents have many options to stay active. “Emmet County is thrilled to have won the MI Big Green Gym Challenge,” said Beth Ann Eckerle, Emmet County’s Director of Communications. “We are a very health- and outdoor-oriented community, so we were very glad to have so many participants join our team and help us win.” Eckerle said heavy social media promotion on various pages helped inspire people to join the cause for Emmet County. The contest was promoted on Emmet County’s website and various Facebook pages, including Emmet County, Camp Petosega, Emmet-Charlevoix County Fair, and McGulpin Point Lighthouse. “We would remind people to log their time climbing the lighthouse tower steps, for example, as a fun way to keep it on people’s radar, or when they swam at Camp Petosega or biked the campground,” Eckerle said. “With some other community events, like marathons or bike events, we would also remind those taking part to please log their miles or minutes after they participated.”

2nd Place: Grand Traverse County ($3,000)

Grand Traverse County plans to use the funds on park and facility improvements. Kristine Erickson, Grand Traverse County Parks and Recreation Department Director, said the challenge was promoted heavily at the first-ever youth triathlon held at Civic Center Park. “Organized and sponsored by TCMI Charities and Traverse City Area Public Schools, it was a huge success,” Erickson said. “We put printed "business cards" promoting the MI Big Green Challenge out on the registration table, so parents registering their children for the triathlon would sign up, and our on-staff Water Safety Instructor Trainer personally talked with all of the parents and children about the competition, urging them to sign up online, right before the triathlon began.” The county also promoted the challenge through a press release to local media, on social media channels, and through information distributed at recreation sites in the county. Besides its nine diverse parks, the county’s parks and recreation department runs the 44-acre Civic Center, which features a pool, arena, meeting rooms, ball fields, skate park, and walking path. The center hosts nearly 800,000 visitors per year, Erickson said.

3rd Place: Team Southeastern Livingston County Recreation Authority ($1,500)

Team Southeastern Livingston County Recreation Authority will use their funds to implement a conceptual idea called Fun & Fit Summer Series 2015. Families will receive credits for participating in various qualifying activities, such as the Walk MI Series at Green Oak Village Place Mall, a Family Bike Ride sponsored by Hometown Bicycles, Adventure Days at the Mill Pond, the SELCRA Golf Outing, and many other family-friendly activities throughout the summer months. At the end of the series, all participants will be entered in a drawing to win gifts from local partners such as a new bicycle, a pair of running shoes, a gym membership, sports equipment, gift cards, or free registration into a SELCRA program. “SELCRA wishes to continue promoting healthy lifestyles through numerous activities that encourage our residents to use their local parks, trails, schools, downtown area, and other resources right in their backyard,” said SELCRA Director Derek Smith.

4th Place: Team Grand Rapids ($500)

Team Grand Rapids is using their funds toward planning work for some new paths and healthy activity areas. Friends of Grand Rapids Parks Executive Director Steve Faber said residents should check out the park finder resource at www.friendsofgrparks.org to explore the city’s parks based on the amenities they’re looking for. “There are many nature paths that a lot of people aren’t aware exist in the city. We also have outdoor fitness centers, great playgrounds, and non-motorized trails along the river,” he said.

Everyone Wins When They’re Active

The real winners, of course, are all the community residents who took part in this year’s challenge. Congratulations on staying active through the competition and best of luck in keeping it up the whole year through! If you’re looking for an easy way to get moving, check out the Walking Works website and start tracking your activity all year long. Photo credit: Loren Sztajer
MI Blues Perspectives is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association