Meet the Newest Member of the WalkArlington Team
Mary Dallao, new WalkArlington Program Manager, is proud to live in one of the most walkable communities in America. She wants to know how she can help you enjoy walking more and inspire you to choose to walk whenever you can.
I’m Mary Dallao, and I am the new Program Manager for WalkArlington. I am delighted to be part of a team that focuses on making walking a part of everyday life. There are so many reasons to walk: It’s easy, it’s free, it’s good for you, and it’s better for the environment.
Moving Toward Walking
I started walking extensively when I moved to the D.C. area years ago as a college student. At first, I went places on foot because it saved money. Later, when cost became less of an issue, I still took the long way to Metro, walking 20 minutes to a farther Metro stop each morning because I liked having that quiet time to myself. Today, I walk whenever I can because I know it’s good for my health.
But walking has not always been accessible to me. Growing up in a small city in northeastern Pennsylvania, I didn’t have as many opportunities to walk as a child. I come from a car-centric place that had limited sidewalks and even more limited public transportation options. Our house was at the end of a cul-de-sac that ran perpendicular to a highway. When we needed to go somewhere, unless we wanted to walk along the shoulder of that busy road, we got in our car and drove. As a matter of fact, because of our neighborhood’s lack of walkability, we didn’t even go trick-or-treating at Halloween like most of my peers. My parents didn’t think it was safe, so my sister and I would participate in the Halloween parade at school and leave it at that. Walking just wasn’t part of our family or our culture.
Decades ago, the culture of Arlington was like that of my hometown, with people relying on their cars. Arlington moved toward greater walkability, though, when Interstate 66 and Metro both expanded in the 1960s and 70s. At that time, County officials decided to locate Metro along Wilson and Clarendon Boulevards instead of right next to the interstate. Their decision was the first step in cementing Arlington’s commitment to “smart growth,” a planning approach that eschews sprawl and safeguards the environment. The Arlington we know today, with dense urban villages easily navigated on foot, is a result of the choices made by leaders of previous generations that have been amplified by others today. While no place is perfect, and I know some parts of town are less accessible, Arlington is still considered one of the most walkable communities in America.
In the ten years I’ve lived in Arlington, walking has been both a conscious choice and something that’s become second nature. I try to fit it in whenever I can: walking five minutes to the neighborhood Safeway to pick up a few items, walking to the drycleaner, walking to Metro. I love going for walks after dinner, as well, particularly in warmer weather. Through walking I’ve gotten to know my neighbors and absorbed my community’s natural beauty.
Let’s Get to Know Each Other
Why do you walk, and what role does walking play in your life? And how can I, in my new role, help you to enjoy walking more and inspire you to choose to walk whenever you can? Drop me a note and let me know how WalkArlington can help make walking an even more integral part of our community. Meanwhile, I look forward to seeing you at some of our upcoming walks and public programs.