Montgomery County opened its first Heart Smart Trail at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton last weekend, featuring bronze markers that will help walkers monitor their physical activity.

Officials hope the trail will be the first of a series of existing trails to be marked so that residents can keep track of how far they walk.

The mile-long walking trail, which starts at the rear of the Brookside Gardens visitors center, has a marker every one-tenth of a mile.

"We partnered with the health and human services department, the Montgomery County recreation department and the African American and Latino initiatives," said Carolyn Wainwright, community services supervisor for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. "Those agencies are looking to reduce heart disease and diabetes as well as reducing the incidences of obesity. We have paved paths throughout our park systems, and you'll be able to measure your distance as you walk."

People wishing to contribute to the development of additional Heart Smart Trails can make donations through the Montgomery Parks Foundation. Details are available at the group's Web site, www.montgomeryparksfnd.org.

Brookside Gardens is at 1800 Glenallan Ave. The trail is open from sunrise to sunset. A brochure that includes a walking log is available at Brookside Gardens or online at www.mcparkandplanning.org/trails.

-- Mark Jones

On opening day, Jun Zhang of Rockville, left, and others test the county's first Heart Smart Trail in Wheaton.Emily Fallick, above, and brother Jeremy prepare to set out on the trail, where markers like that held by Catherine Fallick, below, of Kaiser Permanente and Derick Berlage, county Planning Board chairman, now dot the path.