Archive for Uncategorized

Introducing Sara, and the CATCH UP Project

We are pleased to announce new federal funding for comprehensive health, nutrition and wellness policies and education in area elementary schools and summer and after-school programs, and doubly pleased to introduce you to Sara Salo, the newest employee at the health department. Here is Sara’s story, in her own words:

This May, after 9 months and 5,000 miles of pedaling, I was thrilled to complete my nationwide bicycle program – The School Food Tour  – in a community that so ardently shares my passion for cycling and healthy living. Riding the Tour’s final miles along the Houghton waterfront accompanied by 70+ students from Houghton Middle School not only impressed upon me this area’s commitment to active transportation but as a native Yooper it was also personally meaningful to witness Houghton’s next generation appreciate bicycle travel and healthy snacks.

The following week was filled with presentations, meetings and inspiring conversations. I was reintroduced to Houghton’s diverse Healthy Community efforts and was impressed with the robust community gardens, the recent completion of a Complete Streets policy and increased Safe Routes to School activities. I felt proud to have ties to this area and share my journey with the many local folks interested in transportation and food issues. Little did I know that once again very soon I would become a permanent member of the community.

I now write this blog not only as Sara Salo from the School Food Tour but also as Sara Salo, Health Education Coordinator for the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department. It was a whirlwind month of transitions but I have finally settled into my new position and am focused on the many tasks ahead. My primary role is to implement a collaborative school health initiative known as CATCH, or, the Coordinated Approach to Children’s Health.

The CATCH program will integrate physical activity, wholesome food choices and other supporting health promotion efforts into the school environment. Classroom lessons, cafeteria operations, health screenings, health consultations and active wellness committees will all be key components of this initiative. Our goal is to assist local schools in bolstering their wellness efforts as a means to improve overall child health in the region. CATCH will also involve families and communities with activities such as cooking classes or Safe Routes to School events.

The Health Department, in collaboration with BHK Child Development, will begin CATCH by integrating the program into Great Explorations after-school sites in fall 2012. CATCH K-5 will begin in five districts in 2013 with additional schools being added through 2015. The initial CATCH sites include Houghton, Dollar Bay, Lake Linden, L’Anse and Bessemer Schools. Funding for this new program comes from the federal Office of Rural Health Policy.

I am energized to dive into this exciting new project and want to thank the Health Department for the opportunity to interface with such wonderful coworkers. If you have questions about CATCH please contact myself or Ray Sharp at the Health Department office in Hancock.

Ray and Sara with their favorite mode of transportation


Comments (2)

Healthy Kids Healthy Communities Profile

Profile: Houghton County, the Copper Country (and Ray Sharp, Project Coordinator)


Read all about it:

Leave a Comment

May Rolls On With Bike Education

May is a great month for biking. It’s light enough in the morning to ride to work or school, and listening to birdsong is an added benefit, not to mention saving money on gas and getting plenty of exercise. Here’s a look at three of the many cycling events in Houghton County over the past weeks.

On May 11, former Houghton resident Sara Salo pedaled the last miles of her 5,000 mile School Lunch Tour, on which she visited hundreds of elementary schools and communities, promoting healthy choices for children. Sara is coming to work at Western U.P. Health Department on our new rural health outreach project focused on comprehensive school health.

72 Houghton Middle School students biked to the Houghton Waterfront Trail to welcome Sara home on May 11. School food service manager Shelby Turnquist prepared healthy snacks. She provides healthy lunch choices every day.

On May 18, the CLK Schools in Calumet hosted a day of bike education. Below are bikes of students from Laurium, parked on the south side of Highway 41. Students cross on foot at the crosswalk to get to school. Hundreds of students walked or biked, despite the rain.

Many Calumet students will walk or bike all April, May, September and October.

Calumet riders coming from the north side of US-41 park here, by the elementary school.

Pete Baril and Teresa Woods, above, talked to 700 students, grades K-5 about bike safety thoughout the day, while Ray Sharp, below, got some help fixing a flat.

Above, a walking school bus headed to Lake Linden-Hubbell elementary school on May 23. Below, it looks like Lake Linden needs even more bike racks!

Leave a Comment

Making New Connections for Active Living

A new non-motorized trail was installed today in Houghton County, Michigan, enabling more people to safely commute by foot or bike to school, shopping, work and play.

The 800-foot paved trail was a collaboration of PortageTownship and Western U.P. Health Department, through a project funded and supported by the Healthy Communities Initiative of the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH). The Health Department works with local units of government to develop policies and infrastructure to make walking and biking safer and more convenient.

Portage Township Supervisor Bruuce Peterson explains:

“Today the trail was paved by Bill Siler’s crew – the trail is 8 feet wide and 802 feet long and has about 80 tons of bituminous 2 inches thick on it. Ray Sharp at the Health Department was able to get the grant for $8,600, and the remaining costs for the shaping, gravel and bituminous surfacing Portage Township will pay out of its recreation budget. The trail is defined as non-motorized – it’s for foot and bike traffic. This will be a great community asset – it will allow people who reside near Shopko an easy access to the Kessner Park and the adjoining trail that leads along the waterfront in Houghton.”

“The connector trail is a new kind of public health project,” said Ray Sharp, the health department’s manager of community planning and preparedness. “It will help residents travel back and forth between the Houghton Waterfront Trail and the west M-26 area, encouraging healthy physical activity.”

The health department receives funding and support from MDCH and from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities program to promote access to physical activity and healthy eating in order to reduce childhood obesity and chronic disease, and improve quality of life.

Here’s a look at trail construction, with the Portage Waterway and Lift Bridge in the background.

Looking north toward Portage Lake, August 2011

Site preparation, Oct. 25, 2011

Laying the bituminous (paving), Oct. 26, 2011

Completed before the first snow -- Oct. 26, 2011.

Leave a Comment

Walk and Roll to School Day

A big ‘shout out’ to the students, parents and staff at Lake Linden-Hubbell Elementary School in northern Houghton County, Michigan for great participation in Safe Routes to School. Looks like we’re going to need a few more bike racks! And thanks to Arnie Kinnunen for helping with planning, and to our state consultamts Akia Burnett and Jim Harrington. We have a great team!

Lake Linden-Hubbell Elementary School


Comments (2)

HKHC Case Examples: Complete Streets

The section below is (gratefully) reprinted from the Healthy Kids Healthy Communities web site’s Case Examples: Complete Streets document, which profiles efforts in Chicago, Denver, New Orleans and little Houghton, Michigan to enact policies that encourage safe road designs for pedestrians, cyclists and transit users of all ages and abilities. To see what the big cities are doing, and to view the complete document, go to

Thanks to Abby Lowe, Risa Wilkerson and all the folks at HKHC for spreading the good news and connecting communities.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

Houghton Complete Streets

Houghton, MI: Complete Streets Policy Win in the Upper Peninsula

In 2010, Houghton City Council passed a Bike Friendly Community   resolution, a bike-parking addendum to its zoning ordinances, and, after a process of committee work and public hearings, a Complete Streets ordinance. Houghton became the sixth Michigan city, and first in the rural Upper Peninsula region, to adopt a Complete Streets ordinance. As of July 2011, Michigan led the nation in local Complete Streets policies enacted, with 7 ordinances and 41 resolutions. Ordinances such as Houghton’s specify that all new roads and renovation projects must be designed to accommodate the needs of pedestrians, cyclists and transit users. Houghton is also one of 158 cities nationwide designated as a Bike Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists. Next up for Houghton’s bike task force is starting work on an Active Transportation Plan, a guiding document that will provide recommendations for transportation projects that reflect the needs of pedestrians, cyclists, transit users and people with disabilities. The Complete Streets ordinance is one important factor that will make it that much easier for residents of Houghton to incorporate activity into their daily lives.

For more information, take a look here:
•    Michigan Complete Streets Coalition
•    An article in the Mining Gazette

Leave a Comment

Healthy Communities Goals

Quiz: Which community-level outcome will lead to lower rates of chronic disease, disability and premature death?

A. Increase physical activity levels
B. Increase fruit and vegetable consumption
C. Decrease tobacco use and exposure
D. All of the above

Of course, the best answer is D. These are the three goals of Michigan’s Building Healthy Communities program, a program of the Michigan Department of Community Health. Here are some local examples of MDCH-funded initiatives that support one or more of these goals.

Bike lane, westbound Sharon Avenue, Houghton, west of Agate Street

Houghton has made great progress toward becoming more bike- and pedestrian-friendly. With help from MDCH on technical assitance and training, Houghton passed a Complete Streets ordinance in December 2010. MDCH funding has also helped with paving and striping bike lanes, and signage for bikers and walkers. When communities are safer and more convenient for walking, biking and public transit, and accommodate users of all ages and abilities, residents find it easier to incorporate more daily physical activity into their routines.

Ryan Street Community Garden, Hancock

The Ryan Street Community Garden at Finlandia University in Hancock, a project of the Sustainable Keweenaw Resource Center, also received funding from MDCH’s Building Healthy Communities grant, as well as donations from many community partners. The garden gives residents of the neighborhood an opportunity to grow (and eat) more veggies, and is a showcase to the community on organic gardening and permaculture methods and benefits.

CLK Heritage Garden at the elementary school in Calumet

Notice the sign, “Our Garden is Smoke-Free” displayed at the CLK school garden.  When a child or family comes to the garden, they see this message and associate a tobacco-free lifestyle, eating healthy foods, and getting exercise (by gardening) as three components of a healthier community.

Leave a Comment

Older Posts »