The Union Recorder

March 19, 2013

Live Healthy Baldwin initatives see progress

Vaishali Patel
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — Live Healthy Baldwin initiatives are making headway as local health advocates, city and county officials, and citizens have jumped on board to help Milledgeville-Baldwin County progress into becoming a model for the state in the fight of obesity.

As part of Live Healthy Baldwin’s goal to improve opportunities for physical activity, construction to the first half-mile start for the Fishing Creek Community Trail at Oconee River Greenway has kicked off and stretches to South Elbert Street at the edge of Georgia Military College property. In partnership with Oconee River Greenway, Live Healthy Baldwin received a $100,000 Department of Natural Resources Recreational Trails Program grant to complete phase one.

“We got construction going on and it will be completed by June 1, but we might actually be done before that,” said Dr. Jim Lidstone, Live Healthy Baldwin advocate and director of Georgia College’s Center for Health and Social Issues.

The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) is currently working on plans to connect Baldwin County public schools through the Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS) project, which includes a 9.36 mile pedestrian and bicycle path traveling along Fishing Creek to the easternmost edge of the community to the Baldwin County Board of Education, Industrial Park and Recreation Complex on the west side of town.

“I think [GDOT] is on track to actually start construction in early 2014. They will start at the 441 bypass and go to Blandy Road. There will be sidewalks and bike lanes that connect various school buildings,” Lidstone said. “[Milledgeville-Baldwin County Economic Development Authority Executive Director] Matt Poyner has plans to do trails to Industrial Park, so that would tie in overall with the Fishing Creek Trail on that side of town.”

Work will begin at the end of March to create a community garden at the Collins P. Lee Center located in the Harrisburg neighborhood.

“There will be about 20 beds, a picnic shelter, some fruit trees and bushes, and about two thirds of a mile of walking track around the perimeter of the facility,” Lidstone. “We will be starting work next Saturday to start building raised beds and staking out the trail. It might take a few months, but we hope to get some stuff planted within the next four to six weeks.”

Evergreen Baptist Church is also slated to finally install a community garden at its location on Ivey Weaver Road.

“The church has to get final approval, but I think that will happen at the meeting [Monday night]. They are going back and forth with proposals, but one of the questions is where will the community garden go,” Lidstone said. “The church was one of the first to come forward when we decided to have a community garden initially, but we ended up choosing [the former Southside Elementary School] location.”

To move toward becoming a Bicycle Friendly Community, Eric Broadwell, of the Be Bike Friendly consulting firm, provided feedback and recommendations after assessing the community’s ability to attain the designation in January.

“He provided us with an extensive report with recommendations to move ahead. The first step is to form a bicycle advisory committee that would report to city council,” Lidstone said. “The Complete Streets ordinance has been read into record for the first time at city council last Tuesday. In two weeks, they will have a second reading, then the public has an opportunity to comment, and then they will make their final vote on it two weeks after that. If the ordinance is passed, that means the city is committing itself to use Complete Streets standards on all road renovations and construction.”

Implementing benefits to shoppers of the farmers markets in Milledgeville is another Live Healthy Baldwin goal that has been achieved.

“I think the new Greenway Farmers Market is interested in perhaps incorporating EBT. I know the market at First Presbyterian Church continues to do it monthly in conjunction with First Friday activities and they are all set up and ready to go with EBT,” Lidstone said. “It’s been a goal of Live Healthy Baldwin to have those benefits available at one or more farmers market.”

The mission of the Live Healthy Baldwin coalition has been to fight the battle of childhood obesity by encouraging children and families to live a more healthy and active lifestyle since the project kicked off in December 2009.

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