By John Murray
Waterbury Mayor Mike Jarjura led by example.
Waterbury Mayor Mike Jarjura is a great sport. Three years ago he plunged down the Naugatuck River in a canoe, and on April 29th, as part of a Healthy Living community walk, he wiggled and contorted on stage as he stretched out in front of 400 people on the Waterbury Green.
Afterwards, he joined former competitive walker, Mark Fenton, and they led the group of community leaders, businessman and school kids on a 1.4 mile walk through downtown Waterbury.
Fenton is a national public health planning and transportation consultant, the former host of “America’s Walking” series on PBS, and a former editor of Walking Magazine. The man also has more energy than a tanker of gasoline.
YMCA director Jim O’Rourke, left, and Mark Fenton
During Fenton’s two day visit in Waterbury, funded by a grant the YMCA received from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, he addressed the Chamber of Commerce, spoke on WATR radio, conducted a 90 minute seminar for community leaders, and led the community walk.
Fenton’s message was blunt – Americans need to exercise more and eat healthier food.
“As a species we didn’t have to think about exercise until the past few decades,” Fenton said. “People know they are suppose to eat better and exercise more, but they don’t do it. The message isn’t sticking.”
Fenton said people don’t want to be told to exercise, so communities have to create destinations that encourage exercise by either walking or biking.
The key to encourage a healthier community is to provide residents with safe walking and biking trails, and to provide destinations that are accessible for all ages and genders.
Fenton said all that is needed in certain sections of the city is buckets of paint, and political will, to create safe biking paths.
Fenton and Jarjura lead hundreds of citizens and students along a 1.4 mile walk through downtown.
Meeting with city planners and business leaders, Fenton spoke passionately about the need for Waterbury to get moving. Now.