Today I want to ask a few questions: 

How do we build a healthier community?

What steps can we take to make Maquoketa a community focused on the health and wellness of our residents?

What resources do we already have in place to help our community succeed in becoming healthier? 

Wellness is not just being physically fit and eating nutritious food. It also encompasses mental health and the ways we manage stress in our daily lives. I believe there are many things our community does well and there are numerous resources we already have in place to promote health and wellness. 

The Maquoketa Area Family YMCA is a great place to work on the physical aspect of health and the social/emotional aspect of health. The YMCA offers members of the community the opportunity to become healthier physically and mentally. Group fitness classes grow a sense of belonging as members work together to reach goals. I often see community members greeting each other as they pass in the halls or exchanging a laugh as they joke around upstairs in the fitness center. These exchanges help to build positive mental attitudes and create feelings of belonging to the community. 

The Maquoketa Caves are another wonderful example of a resource we have, and often take for granted. The caves are a wonderful place to meet with friends and spend some time outdoors. Spending time outdoors can help to relieve stress and anxiety. Taking an afternoon to hike the caves with friends can get you away from the stressors of everyday life and help you to refocus. Not only will you get exercise from hiking around the trails but you can take a mental break as well.

The Hurstville Interpretive Center is one more of the fantastic benefits we have living in Maquoketa. The Interpretive Center offers fun outdoor experiences as well as free classes for young and old alike. All you have to do is check out their website mycountyparks.com/County/Jackson/Events.aspx to see a listing of upcoming events. Taking advantage of the events offered at the Interpretive Center is a great way to promote health and wellness. Many of the classes focus on the outdoors and there are a few throughout the year that focus on different foods. 

Don’t forget the Prairie Creek Recreation Trail with more than 5 miles of hiking trails and a 2-acre fishing pond. The trails are a great place to see wildflowers and catch a glimpse of beautiful songbirds. 

The Hurstville Trail is another great place to walk. The trail is accessible for bicycles, walkers, runners and even those in wheelchairs. You can start the trail near the Maquoketa River and enjoy the beautiful bridge that stretches over the river. It is relaxing to take a small break and listen to the water.

Our community has so much to offer. Sometimes we forget the benefits we have living in this small town.

That being said, we still can grow and offer even more opportunities for a healthier lifestyle. Often we just need to be reminded of all the benefits we have in our small town and remember to use them. 

I began this article with a few questions and I will leave you with just one: What will you do to build a healthier community for future generations?   

— Ruth Eltrich is the health and wellness coordinator, personal trainer, and group fitness instructor at the Maquoketa Area Family YMCA.