PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A crowd of around 30 people assembled in front of City Hall on Monday to kick off a walking initiative designed to promote health as well as inspire interest in downtown commerce.
The Downtown Loop, as the 2-mile circuit has been dubbed, is marked by a series of street signs indicating its path, which runs south to north from the visitors' center at the Colonial Theatre on South Street to just before Berkshire Medical Center at the corner of North Street and Orchard.
A collaborative effort between Downtown Pittsfield Inc., the city of Pittsfield, Berkshire Health Systems, the Berkshire Running Center at Berkshire Nautilus and the Pittsfield Family YMCA, the program was created to encourage healthier lifestyles and to enjoy the pedestrian-friendly, walkable and vibrant downtown.
"With the recent improvements and investment to North Street, this program is designed to bring downtown workers, visitors and the community out to walk for the health of it, making for a more vibrant downtown," said Elie Hammerling, board member of Downtown Pittsfield Inc. and head of the Downtown Loop Committee.
Mayor Daniel Bianchi said that by taking the time to walk downtown, residents also have opportunities to get around and appreciate changing retail offerings and other amenities of this part of the city.
"The more people get out and walk, the more vibrant our community will be," said Bianchi.
"If we want a healthy community, we have to have a good economy," echoed Ruth Blodgett, representing Berkshire Health Systems.
While individual actions are still a crucial part of maintaining health and fitness, Blodgett said, community-gathering projects like the Downtown Loop are also essential.
"This is an important way we can hard-wire health into our city," said Blodgett.
Following some brief organized stretching activities, about two dozen walkers and a few runners broke in the newly designated loop over the course of the Monday lunch hour.
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