'It is a 2-minute walk': New signs in downtown Wausau aim to encourage pedestrians

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By:  Haley BeMiller with Wausau Daily Herald

Wausau residents and visitors now have new encouragement to roam downtown on foot.

The Wausau River District and Marathon County Healthy Eating Active Living Coalition partnered to install signs Wednesday directing pedestrians to downtown landmarks and businesses such as Inner Sleeve Records, Polito's and City Hall. They show how many minutes it will take for someone to walk to the next destination and allow people to scan the signs with a smartphone to get directions.

The project aims to increase foot traffic to businesses and highlight downtown's walkability. Elizabeth Brodek, executive director of the Wausau River District, said the signs can help people understand they don't need to hop in the car to get somewhere a block away.

"It’s literally just a couple minutes of walking to get to some of the places that they really want to be and some of the places that they might not even know about that they should check out," she said

Samantha Pinzl, a public health educator for the Marathon County Health Department and co-facilitator of the HEAL Coalition, also noted the health benefits of walking and said HEAL encourages walkability in the community.

"Even increasing your walking by 22 minutes a day can greatly reduce your chances of getting heart disease and other chronic illnesses such as that," she said.

The sites featured on the signs opted to participate. Brodek said they reached out anchor businesses in the community, as well as those off the beaten path that they want people to know about. Others were selected based on distance, she said.

18 signs were installed Wednesday primarily along Third Street, but others can be found near the YMCA and elsewhere in downtown. They're purple, blue or green, depending on whether the location is retail, civic or a public space like the Center for Visual Arts.

The signs are temporary, and Pinzl said they could come down before winter. However, she said they hope to increase the number of signs and add more permanent signage if people find them useful.

HEAL and the River District received the signs through Walk [Your City], a Raleigh, N.C.-based group that provides toolkits to communities around the country to help boost walkability.

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