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The kiosk at the trail head in Alexandria's Big Ole Central Park now contains a map showing the Central Lakes Trail in Douglas County. (Photo by Amy Chaffins)

Editorial - On the trail toward better health

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Editorial - On the trail toward better health
Alexandria Minnesota 225 7th Ave E
P.O. Box 549
56308

A five-year anniversary was celebrated last Wednesday in Alexandria, one that marked a noteworthy goal: Encouraging people of all ages to get more active and physically fit.

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A story about Douglas County Active Living's accomplishments in the last five years will be printed in this Friday's newspaper.

We urge local residents to learn about what this group has been up to. Better yet, residents should tap into the opportunities Active Living is providing.

Working with a $575,000 grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield's Center for Prevention, Active Living has made it easier for people to walk and explore historic sites in towns throughout the area, take a spin on the Central Lakes Trail with the free use of bicycles, keep the car in the garage by biking to work, and get kids walking and biking to school and feel safer doing it.

If you haven't been down to the Big Ole Central Park recently, go and take a look at Active Living's and other contributor's latest accomplishment. The kiosk at the head of the Central Lakes Trail now contains a large, easy-to-read map showing the 55-mile long trail, which stretches from Fergus Falls all the way to Osakis. The map explains that trail shelters, restrooms, parking areas and connecting links to other community trails can be found throughout the trail system.

There are also five "Walk and Explore" maps showing interesting historical places walkers or bicyclists can learn about while getting some exercise in at the same time.

Another panel on the kiosk is devoted to showing a "master plan" for Big Ole Central Park, an artist's conception of what the trail head could look like in the future.

The park and trail head area has come a long way. A decade ago, 2nd Avenue was an eyesore. Although it was platted as a road and the Big Ole statue stood nearby, there wasn't much of anything else there but a few back entrances to businesses.

Fortunately, before 3rd Avenue was reconstructed in 2003, the Alexandria City Council had the foresight to convert 2nd Avenue into a full-fledged detour route so drivers could escape the construction.

Gradually, a nice little park took shape, rapidly followed by more improvements, beautiful landscaping touches and the city's first public art sculpture. Active Living has been just one key component in transforming the area over the years. As noted in the kiosk display, the park was once "a destitute place to be" but with the vision of community leaders, businesses and the city's park department, Big Ole Central Park is now a highlight along the Central Lakes Trail, a place where people can recharge, learn about local history, enjoy the outdoors and improve their physical fitness, all at the same time.

The Douglas County area is so fortunate to have such a beautiful trail system running right through it and to have groups like Active Living that are passionate about putting more people on the path toward better health.

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