WEST MILFORD — Eat healthy and get moving. That is the goal of the Mayors Wellness Campaign, a state-wide effort where local mayors serve as champions of community health. West Milford Mayor Bettina Bieri is on board. In July, Bieri and the township council gave their support to the campaign, the goals of which are to improve health, reduce health care costs, foster active living and healthy lifestyles, and make New Jersey a national leader in community-based health intervention.
Renee Allessio, a West Milford resident and the Passaic County Right to Know project specialist, spoke to the council at the July 16 township meeting about the healthy options offered by the township.
“The Township of West Milford has been a participant in the Mayors Wellness Campaign since 2006. This year we are once again pledging our commitment to promoting a healthy and active lifestyle for all ages in our community,” she said .
Allessio listed many of the benefits of living in West Milford, citing the natural resources that encourage outdoor activities and the non-profit groups that help spread the word of good health.
The Lions Club along with the township’s Health Department holds an annual health fair at Hillcrest Community Center. The monthly blood drive, sponsored by the West Milford First Aid Squad, is one of the finest in the region.
“To stay healthy we need to eat right and stay mentally and physically fit no matter what age we are,” Allessio said. “Our township Community Services and Recreation provides programs that include a summer camp, a community sand bottom pool, swim lessons, swim team and a teen coffee house. It also has the award winning P.R.I.D.E. program, a program for adults with developmental disabilities, and an Office of Older Adult Services. These programs offer nutritious luncheons, as well as regular activities.” And, most importantly, transportation is available for many of these programs.
Allessio mentioned the Association for Special Children and Families, which provides activities for special needs children, and CASA, which provides programs that reduce alcoholism, violence and drug abuse.
Sustainable West MilfordSustainable West Milford has made accessibility to healthy foods a main focus. The group provides a farmers market with SNAP and market dollars available, an educational and restorative medicinal herbal garden, an organic community garden, a canning club, and free herbal medicine lectures. The township has local farms that provide fresh produce, eggs, bread, lamb and poultry.
Ample Harvest, connecting gardeners to food pantries, started in West Milford. During the growing season, the community garden and other local gardeners provide extra fresh produce to local pantries.
An active lifestyleThe township offers a tremendous amount of sporting activities, through private organizations as well as their own. Sports are not just for the kids. There are adult leagues as well and some local gyms, yoga and dance studios.
Outdoor activities are plentiful.
“We are situated in the heart of the Highlands,” said Allessio. “Therefore, a large extent of our over 80 square miles are lakes, reservoirs, streams, undeveloped lands and protected state forests and parks.”
Residents and visitors can take advantage of West Milford's environment for outdoor activities all year long. More than 120 miles of hiking trails, maintained by the NY/NJ Trail Conference, and numerous lakes are considered some of the best in the state. There is the local pump track and the bike trails at Jungle Habitat for bikers. Walking clubs help get people moving. There is a disc golf course at Brown’s Point and the Highlands Crew rowing in the Monksville Reservoir.
Even the fundraisers in town are geared toward physical challenges, like the West Milford Animal Shelter’s 5K Run, the West Milford Museum’s annual tennis tournament and Relay for Life. This year, Macopin Middle School teachers and staff members trained for months to compete in the 2014 NY/NJ Mudderella, a five-mile, mud-loaded obstacle course.
“West Milford strives to be the healthiest town in the state and a great place to live, work, visit and play,” Allessio said.