Before the heat of the day begins to set in, the mayor and City Council members invite Baldwin Park residents to continue to join them Saturday mornings throughout July for a brisk one-hour walk through the city.
“Walk with the Mayor & City Council,” as the program is called, is a casual way for residents to engage with elected officials, enjoy the neighborhood and get some great exercise as they walk together.
The walks start at 8 a.m. at Morgan Park and are about 3 miles long. They started late June and will continue the remaining Saturdays leading up to the Pride of the Valley 5K on Aug. 4.
"It opens up that door to residents,” said Councilwoman Marlen Garcia. “When they walk with us, they're having a conversation with us." This is the second year the city organized the Saturday morning walks as a warm up to the Pride of the Valley 5K, which will also start at Morgan Park. The walks with Mayor Manuel Lozano take place along the same course as the 5K but with some variance.
Lozano, an avid runner, enjoys the opportunity to connect with residents and also tour the city on foot and notice different areas that need special attention, such as unkempt lawns or problem sidewalks. "You hear from the residents: the good, the bad and the frustration as well," said Lozano.
Even a short walk through the city allows a person to see things differently than just driving by, said Manuel Ceniceros, an 18-year resident of Baldwin Park. He heard about the walks with the mayor and joined in because he knows it's good for his health, high blood pressure and diabetes.
The handful of residents that meet on Saturdays range from five to 12 people and "even if no one shows up, we still walk," the mayor said. As the group walked down the street, Lozano waived at some longtime friends and neighbors who drove by, encouraging them to come walk with him sometime.
Mariana Lake, 55, encourages friends and family to join her on these recent Saturday morning walks. "I am motivating other people to come," said Lake, who brings her 12-year-old son with her. "I tell people, 'let's go run with the mayor.'" Lake will also participate in the Pride of the Valley 5K next month.
The City’s aim was to start the walks on Saturdays in the month-and-a-half leading up to the Pride of the Valley 5K to encourage people to join the race but also build confidence in their physical abilities. "Then they know they're going to finish the 5K because we've been doing it," said Garcia.
But even if residents don't have an interest in participating in the Pride of the Valley 5K in August, the Saturday morning walks have been a chance to connect and chat with city officials in a relaxed setting. "You have the opportunity to talk to the mayor," Lake said. "This is something nice and this is an example for the other communities."