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FOR A BETTER US by John Hall

Two or three times a week I come to the Y to swim my laps in the large pool, then enjoy a leisurely stretching session in the small, warm pool. In each pool, as well as in the lobby, hallways, locker room, and parking lot, I see familiar, friendly faces. One thing we all have in common: we know how great it feels to get our bodies moving, our brains oxygenated, and the endorphins flowing. After a workout you feel great! And the social contact with “gym friends”—even if you don’t know their names—makes it even better. Without the Y, our lives would be diminished.

So, I wanted to tell my gym-friends and pool-friends about another dimension of my life that is aimed in the same direction. I am the founder and Executive Director of the Jonah Center for Earth and Art, an environmental nonprofit that works in Middletown and Portland to make our communities more bike- and pedestrian-friendly. That includes making it better for runners, too. There is a whole world out there that we can make better for walking, bicycling, and running.

The Jonah Center is working to build multi-use trails, bike routes, and better sidewalk connections. Our advocacy has resulted in the expansion of the Mattabesset BikeTrail in the Westlake area of Middletown, the new multi-use trail beside Long Lane in Middletown, and various sidewalk improvements and safety markings, mostly around schools. In Portland, the Jonah Center sparked the recent construction of the Air Line Trail and played a role in new sidewalks being constructed. More projects are in the pipeline on both sides of the river. You can view these and learn about the Jonah Center’s work at Subscribe to our newsletter. We need citizen support. You could even join the Complete Streets Committee in either municipality. “Complete streets” means streets built for all users, not just motor vehicles.

But getting back to the Y, encourage your friends to reap the health and social benefits of exercising; taking aquatic, aerobic, or yoga classes; and seeing familiar faces at the Y. It’s all very relaxing and healthy for the body and soul.


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