ANNAPOLIS – A meeting with the mayor, a high-powered lunch with some delegates and an afternoon of testifying — just a typical day in Annapolis. But it’s not for these lobbyists: a group of third-graders from East Silver Spring Elementary School.
After spending a full day in the city, four students testified at a House Commerce and Government Matters Committee to promote their proposal to make walking the state exercise.
Everybody in Maryland can walk, third-grader Kevin Gross told the committee — on sidewalks, in parks, malls or on bike trails. And they can find shells, rocks and bugs along the way.
Will Smith, 8, the bill’s instigator, said walking makes him think of his home.
“I know more about my neighborhood and more people because I walk.”
Smith walks to school, to church and to see friends, he said.
“It’s hard to say `Hi’ when you’re going 60 mph,” Smith said.
Amanda Greene agreed.
“Walking can bring people together,” she said, and “increase understanding.”
Walking, Emily Haislip said, doesn’t require special equipment or money, “but you can still have a great time.”
Making walking the state exercise “goes beyond symbolism,” said Delegate William A. Bronrott, D-Montgomery, who sponsored the bill at the children’s request. It supports health, fitness and the environment, he said.
“It sends a strong message,” Bronrott said. “Walking as preventative medicine.”
America is suffering an obesity epidemic, said Barbara Moore, president of Shape Up America, which is prepared to take the measure onto the national stage. The organization, founded by former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, promotes healthy weight and increased physical activity.
Annapolis is a “pedestrian paradise,” said Paul Foer, Annapolis Department of Transportation marketing specialist, speaking for the mayor. Besides the city’s walking-friendly layout, two major national trials, Foer said, intersect and traverse Annapolis.
A 1999 issue of Walking Magazine named Annapolis one of the 10 best cities for walkers, he said.
Before the hearing, the students took a walking tour with the mayor, who presented them with city pins, making them Annapolis ambassadors.
They lunched on pizza and Girl Scout cookies as they mingled with Bronrott and Delegates Sheila E. Hixson, D-Montgomery, and Peter Franchot, D-Montgomery, both supporters of the bill and representatives of the students’ district.
The students seemed unfazed by their recent fame. In the past few months, they have been interviewed for print and broadcast and have been photographed numerous times.
The third-grade project began last October when Will and his dad looked at the state symbols online. It spread to the entire third grade and finally to Bronrott. The Governor’s Office of Smart Growth, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, Maryland Council on Physical Fitness, Maryland PTA, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Environmental Defense, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, One Less Car, Maryland Volkssport Association and Chesapeake Bay Country Walkers also support the bill. -30- CNS-2-20-02