Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

April 4, 2014

Active living input sought

Debbie Blank The Herald-Tribune
The Batesville Herald-Tribune

---- — For years, Batesville Street Department workers have been reconstructing sidewalks “to enhance the walkability and safety of our community. We believe that a communitywide pedestrian plan is the next step in helping us move into the future,” says Mayor Rick Fledderman.

The plan will begin during a City of Batesville Active Living Workshop: Planning for a Healthy Community. It is slated for Thursday, April 10, from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at The Sherman House.

The Indiana State Department of Health Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity and Health by Design are collaborating on a series of Active Living Workshops that work toward improving Hoosiers’ health. Out of 25 applications, Batesville was one of 10 entities chosen across Indiana for the free workshops this year, reports organizer Zia Brucaya, Indiana Complete Streets Coalition coordinator, Health by Design.

The mayor explained why the workshop is needed. “The ISDH has developed a program to help communities, like ours, recognize our strengths and weaknesses in regards to using streets for something other than vehicular traffic. We are proud to be on the ground floor of this movement in our state.” He added, “The timing of the workshop couldn’t be any better as the city looks to pursue an Indiana Department of Natural Resources grant to begin Phase II of the community’s overall trail system.”

Health by Design is a coalition of diverse partners working to ensure that Indiana communities have neighborhoods, public spaces and transportation infrastructure that promote physical activity. By raising awareness, advocating for policy change and monitoring how physical surroundings affect Hoosiers’ quality of life, Health by Design champions a built environment that promotes active living, yet protects the natural environment.

Presentations include “Why We Build for Active Living”; keys to a walkable community; a suitability mapping exercise, which will use maps to mark roads that are poor, OK and great for biking and walking, as well as important destinations and dangerous intersections; and designing for active living.

In addition to Brucaya, other presenters are Lindsey Bouza, ISDH wellness and physical activity coordinator; and Pete Fritz, ISDH healthy communities planner.

Between 30-50 attendees, who include city officials and other key leaders, will perform a one-mile downtown walk audit. According to the organizer, “We will discuss specific challenges to walking and biking along the route, as well as design opportunities that we see.”

Participants will brainstorm in the afternoon, breaking up into five interest groups (walking, biking, parks and greenspace, land use and public spaces, and schools), to identify local assets, barriers and priority actions to support active living here. Priorities will be whittled down to the top three.

A public open house will be held in the same location from 6-8 p.m. It will be “a chance for residents to hear a recap of the Active Living Workshop activities and presentations, including a summary of the priority opportunities identified by participants,” Brucaya explains. “We will provide design guidance and implementation ideas related to the top priorities identified during the day, and gather additional input from residents at the evening session through discussion and voting exercises.”

She is hopeful the evening attendees include “residents who are unable to participate in the full-day workshop, workshop participants interested in learning about additional opportunities to implement the priorities they identified and anyone who would like to demonstrate support for active living in Batesville.”

Follow-up activities for Batesville leaders include finalizing and submitting a community action plan based on the priorities and providing six-month and one-year progress reports.

The Indiana Complete Streets Coalition coordinator points out, “Batesville is already doing a lot of important work through its development of trails and parks, its Community Partners initiative that promotes healthy lifestyles” and the city’s Americans With Disabilities Act transition plan. The workshop “will help participants develop a vision to tie those existing opportunities together, identify missing pieces and motivate community partners toward a shared goal of increasing physically active lifestyles in Batesville.”

Debbie Blank can be contacted at debbie.blank@batesvilleheraldtribune.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 113.