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Growing Healthy Main Streets

Main Street Arkansas - Tuesday, January 26, 2016

 


 
Growing Healthy Main Streets
Imagine this downtown scene: People are greeting their neighbors, visiting with shop owners and browsing aisles of colorful peppers, strawberries and cucumbers while enjoying the music of local performers. Over the last 31 years, Main Street Arkansas knows what happens when people are able to come together in public spaces like these – community residents are motivated to build better access to healthy foods; increase walkability throughout their community; and build social capital.
More than just putting on great events and saving prominent historic structures, Main Street Arkansas programs are connectors, creating active public spaces while also promoting public health by developing walkable neighborhoods and downtowns.
From farmers markets to connectivity plans, Main Streets are forming partnerships with city leadership and others to get things done. In this issue, we explore what it means to have a healthy downtown and what our Main Street programs are actively doing to create walkable, economically sustainable downtowns.
 
Osceola host Local Foods, Local Places workshops
The city of Osceola was one of three communities in Arkansas selected to participate in Local Foods, Local Places technical assistance program. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), and Delta Regional Authority (DRA) teamed up to launch Local Foods, Local Places – a technical assistance program that will help 26 communities nationwide in 2015 looking to capitalize on the growing demand for local foods to:
•Boost economic opportunities for local farmers and businesses, and foster entrepreneurship.
•Improve access to healthy local food, particularly among disadvantaged groups with limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
•Revitalize downtowns, main street districts, and traditional neighborhoods and provide people with affordable choices for accessing those amenities, such as walking, biking, or taking transit.

 
Meet Mayor Elumbaugh: Building a healthy community one successful project at a time
For more than eight years, Mayor Rick Elumbaugh has served as an advocate for healthful living in the city of Batesville. A previous physical education teacher, Elumbaugh understands the importance of promoting healthy lifestyles. In 2010, Batesville was chosen to participate in Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention’s (ArCOP) Growing Healthy Communities program. ArCOP is the state’s only coalition focused on increasing physical activity and access to healthy foods in order to reduce and prevent obesity. Through the Growing Healthy Communities program, Elumbaugh worked with community leaders to develop short and long-term goals in implementing environmental and policy changes and improving current infrastructure to create a more livable community. Since being a part of the program, the city of Batesville has seen some major success, including the creation of a successful farmers market, improvements in downtown streetscapes and the construction of a 100,000-square-foot community and aquatics center.
 
Planning for Sustainable Growth: The Siloam Springs Downtown and Connectivity Plan
Main Street Siloam Springs has experienced considerable success in a short amount of time since joining MSA. Within eight years over 20 buildings have been renovated, more than 25 businesses have been opened (adding a net of nearly 100 new jobs) and an estimated $11 million has been reinvested in property purchases, building renovation and public improvement projects. To prepare for the next phase of growth downtown, Main Street Siloam Springs partnered with Bridges to Wellness, the city and other public and private entities to create a downtown and connectivity master plan. “It’s great if you have wonderfully preserved historic buildings but in order for that to have an impact on your community, you have to also create an engaging walking environment that’s connected to public spaces and residential neighborhoods,” states executive director Meredith Bergstrom. The purpose of the master plan was to address downtown revitalization as an economic development strategy that will drive wellness and quality of life improvements in Siloam Springs. Since adopting the plan in the summer of 2014, Siloam Springs has already begun to see major projects within the plan beginning to take shape. A new library downtown, sidewalk improvements and trails leading into downtown and the new library are in the works.