ROCHESTER, NY - Sometimes a good idea bolts from the starting gate and picks up steam as it moves along. That’s what happened with a little pocket-sized free guide to hiking trails that Wegmans Food Markets printed in 2005. The first “Passport to Family Wellness” mapped points of interest for 15 trails in Penfield NY, a town not far from company headquarters. Today the company has 18 additional guides to more than 150 trails in four states and a total print run of more than 36,000 booklets. Another eight guides are on the way.
Some have wondered why a grocery company like Wegmans has embraced a program that invites people to explore the great outdoors rather than sending them to the supermarket.
“The Passports to Family Wellness are a perfect match for one of the company’s four Eat Well, Live Well principles,” says Marcie Bartolotta, M.S., who manages community Eat Well, Live Well initiatives. “One principle says ‘Get Moving.’ Many, many studies show that regular exercise does help people of all ages maintain better health. Walking, hiking and biking are great ways to get moving – and you may not even realize you’re exercising because you’re having so much fun doing it.”
The free guides are available on request from the Customer Service desk of Wegmans stores near the trails, from many town libraries and park departments, or can be accessed and printed on wegmans.com.
Lots of people love the passports – families looking for a weekend outing, schoolteachers in search of field trips, hikers and bikers looking for new routes to explore. Trails are located in a wide range of settings -- parks, riverbanks, canals and towpaths, lakes, nature preserves, or sometimes along city streets lined with stunning architecture.
There’s a huge range of outdoor adventures for people of different interests and abilities. Hiking, biking, bird watching and wildlife viewing are just the beginning. Some parks also offer canoeing and kayaking, swimming, or winter activities such as snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
A few examples illustrate the possibilities:
The Tot Trail in Veterans’ Memorial Park in Penfield NY features four play stations suitable for children ages 2 to 5 that develop strength, balance, and coordination. There’s a butterfly garden too!
An urban trail in downtown Buffalo takes you past monuments of modern architecture registered as National Historic Landmarks, and past City Hall, in striking Art Deco style.
The Benjamin Banneker Historical Park in Catonsville MD has extensive hiking trails as well as a museum dedicated to Banneker, known as the country’s first African-American scientist. He lived during Colonial times and was a farmer, astronomer, clockmaker, surveyor, and mathematician.
The Mt. Pisgah Trail Area in Northborough MA affords a view of the tall buildings of downtown Boston on a clear day.
The Trexler Nature Preserve near the Lehigh Valley Zoo has a Covered Bridge Trail accessible to the handicapped, as well as 26 miles of trails suitable for hiking, biking, horseback riding, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing.
Each trail has a rubbing post near the middle of the route that is shown on the map or described in the book. There’s a space in the passport booklet to make the rubbing for that trail. “Finding the rubbing post and making a rubbing is like going on a scavenger hunt,” Bartolotta says. “It makes the adventure more fun.” After six or more trails have been completed, the passport holder can collect a reward, such as a coupon for a complimentary item at a Wegmans store. Each passport booklet gives instructions on claiming a reward.
The passports offer hints about preparing for a hike – dress in layers, bring along sunscreen, water, and perhaps a snack if you’re tackling one of the longer trails.
What do people who have used the passports think? Here’s a sampling of comments:
“We enjoyed the Erie Canal history sites. We were amazed to find the lock site in Newark. My sister and husband have lived there for many years, and we were all unfamiliar with it.”
“My wife and I, with our old dog and several times our grandchildren, have had wonderful experiences of creating memories . . .walking the sixteen Wayne County trails described in the booklet.”
The growth of the program has been a pleasure for Bartolotta to watch. “It really took off. We partnered with town and city recreation programs, land conservancy groups, hiking and bicycling organizations, and fitness programs to map trails and distribute passports. Now, the information about these trails is in many more hands than before. It’s free, fun, and good for you. What could be better?”
Know of hiking trails that might be good to include in a future Passport to Family Wellness? Let Wegmans know by visiting the Contact Us page on Wegmans.com.
Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. is an 81-store supermarket chain with stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, and Massachusetts. The family-owned company, founded in 1916, is recognized as an industry leader and innovator. Wegmans has been named one of the ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ by FORTUNE magazine for 16 consecutive years. In 2013, Wegmans ranked #5 on the list.