Stocks & pedestal — Summer 2007

Obesity & The Great Allegheny Passage
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It took a little doing — the blacksmith had to add a few links in the chains — but we’ve put obesity in the public stockade.

It’s often said that in many cultures being corpulent is a sign of wealth and even beauty. In ours, being obese is neither. Some see it as a natural result of living in a land of plenty. Some see it as a symptom of national decline.

However you see it, having roughly one of four adults in Pennsylvania being obese is a problem.

In Pittsburgh, it’s likely that we exceed that number. Because of growing childhood obesity and the projections that one of every three kids will develop Type-​2 diabetes, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation expects this generation of youngsters to be the first to have a shorter life span than the generation ahead of it.

Ebenezer Scrooge would scoff: “Decrease the surplus population.”

Aside from diabetes, the list of obesity-​related maladies is long and grim, with heart disease being a guarantee. Obesity also piles more and more costs on our healthcare system. In this regard, we credit Highmark with starting Highmark Healthy High Five, which is, in part, fighting childhood obesity.

We all need to get out and enjoy the outdoors. Walk Pittsburgh, the safest major city in America. Visit the parks. Hit the treadmill. Eat healthy foods. And ride the bike trail as it stretches from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C. There’s no question, the less of us the better.

On a pedestal: The Great Allegheny Passage

On the pedestal is The Great Allegheny Passage, the perfect antidote for this issue’s prisoner in the pillory.

For those who don’t know, The Great Allegheny Passage is a 150-​mile system of biking and hiking trails connecting Pittsburgh with Cumberland, Md., and linking with trails that can take riders all the way to Washington, D.C. Final connections between Point State Park and McKeesport will be completed as part of Pittsburgh’s 250th anniversary celebration.

It’s a magnificent idea that, through cooperation and perseverance, will come to be seen nationally as one of Greater Pittsburgh’s greatest assets. The credit goes to many funders and groups, most notably the Allegheny Trail Alliance, a coalition of seven trail organizations in southwestern Pennsylvania and western Maryland.

With amenities such as bike shops, restaurants, bed-​and-​breakfasts and camping facilities popping up all along the route, the trail of packed, crushed limestone is a smooth ride mainly along abandoned rail beds. The largely level trail has an average grade of less than 2 percent, making it an ideal summer journey full of scenic mountain vistas, bridges, tunnels and rides along the beautiful Youghiogheny and Casselman rivers.

The people who have worked to make this trail a reality deserve the thanks of all in this region. Bravo! Now let’s get out and experience it.

Douglas Heuck

A journalistic innovator, Heuck has been writing about Pittsburgh for 25 years, as an investigative reporter and business editor at The Pittsburgh Press and Post-​Gazette and as the founder of Pittsburgh Quarterly. His newspaper projects ranged from living on the streets disguised as a homeless man to penning the only comprehensive profile in the latter years of polio pioneer Dr. Jonas Salk to creating a statistical means of judging regional progress that has led to similar projects across the country. Heuck’s work has won numerous national, state and local writing awards. His work has been cited in the landmark media law case “Food Lion vs. ABC news.”

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