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story.lead_photo.caption Keith Bryant/The Weekly Vista A black Swan and several geese are among the wildlife the Bella Vista Walks group watches and occasionally talks to.

Early in the morning, a handful of people stood near the Veterans Wall and talked before setting off at eight sharp, eager to take in the scenery -- including shimmering water and busy wildlife -- surrounding Lake Bella Vista.

A group of Bella Vistans is getting up to squeeze in a pleasant walk every weekday, gathering in the parking lot before heading out at 8 a.m. in most weather -- though temperatures below 20 degrees or lightning storms will cancel a group stroll.

Jen Steger said she has to leave on time each morning to ensure she has enough time to get home and get cleaned up before work.

Steger started the group, she said, last July, with its inaugural walk July 5. Initially, she said, she went for walks on her own, but when a member of the Positively Bella Vista Facebook group looked for someone to walk with, Steger invited this individual to walk with her.

As more people joined in, she said, she formed her own group, Bella Vista Walks, which locals are free to join and can use to set up walks in town. Anyone is welcome to show up on site, she said, or join the group. The group currently hosts 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. walks at Lake Bella Vista, with a typical walk going 30 minutes in and 30 minutes back out. Evening walks are expected to start soon, she said.

"I set it up as a group to welcome everyone and be very inclusive," she said.

Men and women of all ages are welcome, she said.

The group tends to include people at various fitness levels and speeds, so while it starts as one group it tends to spread out. Steger said she makes it a point to walk with the slowest walkers in the group to make sure they have company. Most walks see enough of a turnout with a wide enough range of walking speeds that nobody ends up walking alone, she said.

It's a good activity for just about any fitness level, she said, because most people can at least put in a few minutes at a time and build up to a longer walk. Moreover, she said, there's not really an equipment cost -- especially compared to road biking, which she also does.

"For walking? Seriously, put some shoes on and show up," Steger said.

A group helps improve the activity immensely, she said. It's easier to stay committed when one is expected to show up, and it also keeps the walks safer. The group, she said, has had one incident -- a man stared at several walkers and made them uncomfortable. Police were notified, she said, but the simple fact that she was in a group made the encounter far safer.

Additionally, she said, walking with other people means these walks are a chance to make friends.

As they stepped along the lakeside trail, walkers could be heard talking about what's going on in their lives, sharing recipes and discussing their children's and grandchildren's accomplishments.

Anne Hensley enjoys the walks, though an injury is keeping her off the trails for the next few weeks. Hensley said she enjoys the scenery, but also the sense of community.

"You start to know your neighbors," she said.

Walker Leanna McKinnie said the group provides an opportunity for people to support each other. She enjoys the walks, she said, though she's also looking forward to nicer weather.

Walking, she said, is a good way to enjoy the area.

"There are options in walking," she said. "If you wanna walk longer, you can."

General News on 03/14/2018

Print Headline: Groups walking together along Bella Vista trails

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