Posts Tagged Building Healthy Communities

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.

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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.
 
 
 

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How Does Your Garden Blog?

There’s always something interesting happening in a community garden. Every garden season has its activities, moods, sights, sounds, smells and tastes. Community gardens in Houghton and Hancock, conceived and maintained by residents dedicated to creating sustainable communities and to growing and eating local food, provide great examples you can visit in person and on-line.

Here’s the Pewabic Street (Houghton) Community garden blog link: http://pewabicstreetcommunitygarden.blogspot.com/

This is the Ryan Street (Hancock) Community Garden link: http://ryanstreetgarden.blogspot.com/

Both gardens provide gardening space to city residents and are places where children and adults can learn more about gardening and nutrition. They each have many volunteers and many partners, among them the Western U.P. Health Department, which helped them to receive funding from the Michigan Department of Community Health’s Building Healthy Communities grant program.

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