Committed To “Greener Days And Healthier Ways”

Imagine a van full of noisy and excited parks and rec staff cruising the streets with bags full of swag and marketing materials, (like the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes Prize Patrol), who jump out and reward residents for making healthy lifestyle choices (playing catch, riding bikes, or walking the dog). That’s how our Random Acts of Fitness Prize Patrol works–we “bust” families, friends and neighbors of all ages for their efforts to get outside and become healthy. We take photos of them and post the “mugshots” on our social media pages for them to see and share with others. We want folks to understand that there are rewards for living a healthy lifestyle! In Canton, we make those rewards slightly more tangible with this positive-reinforcement and incentive-based program. It continues to garner media attention, and has earned the department a 2010 Innovative Recreation Programming Award from the Michigan Recreation & Park Association.

Take A Hike

A 2009 community survey reported that 70 percent of respondents reported trails as the highest need for parks and recreation facilities. Community input, creative partnerships, innovative planning and grant dollars, as well as dedicated volunteers, board members, officials and staff members, helped launch the Lower Rouge River Recreation Trail System. This multi-phase project, which will eventually create a four-mile stretch of accessible connectivity throughout the township, has already become home to hiking, biking and cross-country skiing–all in the heart of this suburban community. To increase awareness of this haven for both nature- and fitness lovers, Canton Leisure Services promotes events like “Run the Rouge,” “Sound Garden,” (a unique strolling concert where Mother Nature meets beautiful music) and “River Day” (a community effort to educate and preserve creek and watershed quality in the area).

The List Goes On …

We invite residents to step off of the treadmill and out of the air conditioning to experience “The Big Green Gym.” They can go online to see or print out the Heritage Park Trail Workout Guide, or experience one of the fitness classes that take place in various parks. “Sunrise Yoga” and “Tai Chi at Sunset” have become resident favorites!

A farmers’ market is held every Sunday–May to October–and offers a free walking club; educational classes about healthy gardening and cooking with vegetables; and opportunities for garden-pot and tray recycling. The market is located adjacent to 12 raised, community organic-gardening plots that residents can rent, tend to, and harvest.

A partnership with the local public library branch has led to “Eco-Week,” seven days in April filled with free opportunities to learn about environmental issues, with tips and solutions. We are even trying to “walk the talk” through some facility improvements, like installing compact fluorescent light bulbs and LED lights, which will provide increased energy efficiency and contribute to $17,000 in electrical and $5,000 in maintenance costs annually.

We haven’t abandoned our kickball or soccer games, and the seniors can still find a game of cards at the community center most days of the week because we understand that those programs maintain their individual and social benefits for the participants. However, we toot our own horn much louder now, using our tagline every chance we get, and on every promotional piece we distribute. Residents are reminded of the importance of greener and healthier lifestyles today and in the future. More importantly, we remind them that we are the ones who are going to help them get there.

Jennifer Provenzano is a Recreation Specialist for Canton Leisure Services, which is a CAPRA Accredited Department and a 2008 NRPA Gold Medal Award Recipient located in Canton Township, Mich. She can be reached at

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