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Gathering for the ribbon-cutting on last Wednesday morning, everyone was amazed at the sharp sting of the cold snowflakes in the midst of a bright sunny day. "Nothing stimulates the heart of a supervisor as seeing snow falling on April 8," quipped Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto as he announced the opening of Oyster Bay's special take on National Start Walking Day. The Town of Oyster Bay is incorporating an historic walk through the hamlet to make people healthy while they enjoy the history of the area.

In the front row ar the ribbon cutting are, from the left: Frank Ulrich of Fitness Together; Fenton Maxwell, of Kid Fitness; Councilwoman Rose Walker; new Councilman Joseph Pinto; Susan Somerville, chairman of the board of the American Heart Association cutting the ribbon; Town Supervisor John Venditto; Main Street Association's Board President Ellen Roché, architect with Isaac Kremer, MSA executive director; and local dignitaries and walkers.

"I am proud that Oyster Bay is sponsoring the Oyster Bay Historic Walking Path based on the American Heart Association Start! Path through the great experience of having the private sector and government work together." The town government was responsive to the suggestion, Venditto said. He thanked town workers for helping put up signs in the hamlet, marking the trail for the walking program.

Frank Ulrich of Fitness Together, and the originator of the hamlet walk, said, "It's been a great experience overall, including that we have extended our business into the community. Not everybody is a client but now we have brought the studio to the community and the walk solves a long-standing dilemma by bringing people to the park. [The midpoint of the walk is Railroad Avenue at the foot of both Maxwell and Audrey avenues at the entrance to Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park.] The walk route can showcase even those businesses that have not been involved in the project. Rotary is already talking about painting some of the benches along the route.

"It's also created a lot of good will.

"It's nice how the roots went deep and spread wide. This is just a wonderful feeling," Mr. Ulrich said as the event concluded with some of the walkers returning to Fitness Together which is the start/finish point of the walk.

Mr. Ulrich came up with the concept of a walking path for fitness. He went to the Main Street Association that had already developed a walking tour that went by the historic sites in town and it was the right length for what Mr. Ulrich wanted to do. "That was when we realized that the Start! Path and the Oyster Bay History Walk fit together," added MSA executive director Isaac Kremer.

Supervisor Venditto said the Oyster Bay Town Board partnered with the American Heart Association in encouraging residents to embark upon an active and healthier life. "This path is one mile in length and will provide a backdrop for healthy fitness activity," Supervisor Venditto said. "In addition, it will also become a destination for visitors interested in a walking tour of local historic points of interest."

The American Heart Association, reports that approximately 8,600 people on Long Island die each year from cardiovascular disease, which represents more people than the entire hamlet of Oyster Bay. "It is Long Island's No. 1 cause of death," explained Susan Somerville, chairman of the Board of the American Heart Association. "This frightening statistic, combined with the overwhelming support and interest of the Town of Oyster Bay and the community, provided the impetus to move forward with our walking path through historic Oyster Bay."

With a commitment of all parties concerned, plans were immediately put into motion. Mr. Ulrich offered his location as the official American Heart Association information center, providing brochures, nutritional information and educational seminars. The Oyster Bay Main Street Association enthusiastically became involved and the Oyster Bay Hamlet Historic Walking Path became the perfect Start! Walk Path location. Dana Sydney, partner of Dayton and Sydney Wealth Strategies Group generously agreed to be the corporate sponsor of the event. Mr. Sydney had open heart surgery at the age of 29 and dedicates his time, energy and corporate support to heart-healthy awareness.

Supervisor Venditto said the Start! Walk Path ribbon-cutting ceremony coincided with the American Heart Association's National Start Walk Day on April 8. Supervisor Venditto said, "Regular exercise helps prevent heart attacks and strokes, and hopefully, this concept will be the model for other municipalities and communities."

Mr. Venditto wasn't able to schedule the walk into his calendar saying, "Time doesn't permit it, but I'll be rooting for them." The participants did the walk in a remarkably short time. At the end of the walk, back at Fitness Together, Town Press office staffer Kurt Ludwig said, "I thought the walk was great! It was a little chilling today, but it was invigorating and a wonderful showcase for the Town of Oyster Bay." Mr. Ludwig runs from three to four miles four times a week. "I'm not typical but it's great for walkers. And, it was a lot of fun. Everyone should walk, even at lunch time, it makes you a more productive worker," he added.

Pat Aitken, Friends of the Bay associate director, was one of the walkers. She said, "I loved it. The best thing for your health is to walk every day."

Rotarian and retired CPA Ed Coblens, a world traveler, said, "It turned out that not everyone who came out to see the ribbon-cutting walked, but the group that did enjoyed it very much. I certainly enjoyed it. It only took about 15 to 20 minutes and I didn't think we could do a mile in that short a time. By the time we got back the sun came out." Mr. Coblens already exercises on his own so it was an easy walk for him. "I do 45 minutes on the treadmill and do some weights." He said the walking path could be expanded with stops for additional exercise. "I've seen that done with jumping jacks or stretching or pull-ups or weight lifting. That way it would be all things to all people."

He said, "I went to the Rotary meeting right after the walk and Isaac Kremer, who is a member talked about it. Others were sorry to have missed it."

As for Mr. Ulrich's comment that Rotary is thinking of painting the benches along the walk, Mr. Coblens said, "If someone asks Rotary do something, they are usually willing to do it. They are a good group."

Start! is the American Heart Association's national initiative that calls on all Americans and their employers to create a culture of physical activity and health to live longer, heart-healthier lives through walking. "Walking is a great way for people of all ages to stay fit physically and spiritually," added Mr. Venditto.

For more information on the American Heart Association's Start! program go to MyStart! Online, a free, Web-based fitness and nutrition tracker that is the hub of the walking program. If you go to Oyster Bay Main Street Association.com you will see the original MSA historic walking tour online, to give you a headstart in your enjoyment of the fitness walk.


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