The Mindfulness Walk Wins Statewide Award

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A trail opened last year to boost visitors’ mental health at Petros Lake Park in Perry Township has won a statewide award.

The Ohio Parks and Recreation Association recently announced that a committee had chosen Stark Parks’ Mindfulness Walk to receive the 10th Governor’s Award for Parks and Recreation.

“This is an example of a parks and recreation project that is saving lives,” the association’s executive director, Woody Woodward, said in a statement.

Stark County Mental Health Addiction and Recovery, mental health experts and Stark Parks worked together for more than a year to develop the mile-long Mindfulness Walk, which uses three park trails and opened in June by Petros Lake as a mental health exercise trail.

It features 10 stops with signs that encourage visitors to enter a state of calm that’s in the moment. For example, the sign at the 10th stop reads: “Notice how you feel. How has your breathing changed? How does our body feel? Your mind?” Another sign by a tree asks visitors, “What do I have in common with the tree?”

Station No. 4 called “Always a Way,” has a maze with no dead ends where visitors can let go of something that has distressed them. Another stop has a zen sand garden and another allows people to play a tune by tapping metal rods.

In September, about 175 participants, many impacted by suicide, in A Walk For Suicide Awareness did the Mindfulness Walk as part of an event organized by Stark County Suicide Prevention Coalition.

Stark Parks says on its YouTube page for a video on the Mindfulness Walk that “the one mile creates a space for meditation, reflection and overall self-care. Built in response to a stressful, technology-filled world, the Mindfulness Walk was designed as a respite to help counteract mental health issues like anxiety, depression and addiction.”

In a statement, the state parks association said it gives the award, which debuted in 2010, for “the park and recreation program or project that has had the most significant impact on quality of life in the preceding year.” Fourteen park programs or projects that won other awards at the awards dinner were considered. Last year, the association named Mindfulness Walk as Ohio’s top capital improvement project.

Representatives of Stark Parks received a trophy, a proclamation by Gov. Mike DeWine and a $500 donation to Stark Parks’ nonprofit foundation.

About Stark Parks
Stark Parks is the countywide park and trail system encompassing 15 parks, 4 lakes, 120+ miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails, 8,300 acres of natural areas, wildlife rehabilitation, and educational programming. For park and trail maps, a program and event calendar, information on activities, and more, visit StarkParks.com.

About Stark County Mental Health & Addiction Recovery
Stark County Mental Health & Addiction Recovery is a multi-faceted organization of expert professionals, dedicated volunteers and concerned community leaders close to mental health and addiction needs right here at home. StarkMHAR is responsible for planning, funding and monitoring public mental health and addiction prevention, early intervention and treatment services delivered to the residents of Stark County. It is one of approximately 50 boards coordinating the public behavioral health system across Ohio. StarkMHAR also advocates for residents with behavioral health issues at both the local and state levels and provides educational opportunities for local providers and other community stakeholders. For more online about the work of StarkMHAR, visit www.StarkMHAR.org.

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