It's Not Too Far to Walk

Walk Huntingdon inspires healthy goals, community spirit

By Kylie Hawn
Daily News Staff Writer

Walk Huntingdon, started locally by Pam Grugan of Alexandria, is part of a national initiative to encourage folks to walk to local destinations using signs that show the time it takes to get to different places in town.

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“The motto, ‘It’s not too far,’ is taken from the national campaign (Walk Your City),” said Grugan. “We want to show people it’s not too far to walk to destinations.”

Monday, Grugan and other volunteers installed signs that show how many minutes it takes to arrive at certain destinations. For example, it’s a 14-minute walk from Juniata College to downtown Huntingdon, and a 27-minute walk from Portstown Park to Detwiler Memorial Field.

“The signs go from Portstown Park to Seventh Street, then go up Moore Street all the way to 18th Street,” said Grugan.

Each of the 30 signs are different colors that represent a variety of destinations. Purple indicates a commercial destination, green is a public space, orange is an amusement destination, blue is a civic or institutional destination and pink is a transit destination.

People can also use a QR code on the signs to bring up a map from www.walkyourcity.org that gives walking directions to a particular destination.

Grugan got the idea for the project from a 2012 Associated Press article in The Daily News that discussed the Walk Your City initiative in Raleigh, North Carolina.

In August 2015, when reading about Juniata College’s strategic plan, Grugan realized this may be the right time for the initiative.

“One of the pillars in (Juniata College’s) strategic plan is community and making the internal community of the college a part of the external community,” said Grugan. “I also read that (Juniata) president (Jim) Troha said he would love to see restaurants and other attractions in town that invite pedestrian traffic to promote a town and gown relationship.

“I realized the college had the potential to participate in that effort,” she added.

Grugan then applied for a community development grant from Standing Stone Coffee Co. and sought help from Juniata College and J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital.

“I thought I would check into the Standing Stone Coffee Co. grant,” said Grugan. “I knew it existed, but I didn’t know when applications were due. I called and was told applications were due in a few days. It was total luck.”

She also sought the help of Cady Kyle, assistant director of human resources at Juniata College, and Linda Carpenter, executive director of the J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital Foundation. Both organizations were willing to support Grugan in her efforts.

Grugan then introduced her idea to Huntingdon Borough Council in December 2015.

“Council was supportive of my idea, but they wanted to know more information,” said Grugan.

After her first trip to council, she got word she received a $300 grant from Standing Stone Coffee Co., and other organizations started donating as well.

“The college and hospital both gave me $1,000, even though I only asked for matching funds from what I got from the Standing Stone Coffee Co. grant,” said Grugan.

After Grugan had enough detailed information to give to council, the plan to erect 30 signs in the borough was approved in February.

Since that time, she’s received financial support from other organizations, like $25 from Walmart, $250 from Reinvision Huntingdon’s “Small Projects, Big Ideas” grant and $300 from Huntingdon Borough to complete the project.

Grugan said she’s also expecting a donation from Huntingdon Area High School student council.

This is only the first phase of this project, and Grugan hopes that with the support of residents, she can implement phases two and three.

Phase two includes hanging more signs in other parts of the borough, and phase three includes supporting bicycle transportation in the borough.

Grugan feels the initiative is important for two reasons.

“One is the relationship I have with environmental sustainability with the Sustainability Club at Juniata Valley High School,” said Grugan, who serves as adviser of the club. “The second reason is because I want this to be another project to empower youth to be the change they want to see.”

A Walk Huntingdon committee has formed and includes representatives from Juniata College, J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital, Huntingdon Borough Council and three youth from area school districts.

Folks will have the opportunity to initiate the project by participating in a Walk Huntingdon kick-off event at 8:30 a.m. Friday, April 22, to coincide with Earth Day.

For more information about Walk Huntingdon and the Earth Day event, visit the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/WalkHuntingdon or send an email to walkhuntingdon@gmail.com.

Kylie can be reached at khawn@huntingdondailynews.com.