What do you want the future to look like, more importantly what do you want it to feel like?
I have asked myself that same question about our community and this has led me to become a part of the Healthy Communities Design Leadership Team. What is that? It is a cross-sectional group of civic leaders from various professions and backgrounds looking for ways to make Barton County a better place by making it easier for residents to stay healthy.
Funded by a grant from the Kansas Health Foundation, the group is taking a different approach to this issue. The goal is to identify what resources we already have in our communities and how we can use them to support healthier lifestyles for all county residents.
But, health is such a vague term. The definition varies from person to person reading this column. So, team members have conducted a survey, visited civic and other organizations, and have contacted government officials.
What it boils down to is this – what does it mean to the citizens and what would they be willing to support.
We have met since January trying to get our minds around this topic. Among the ideas we have come up with are better access to fresh fruits and vegetables by emphasizing community gardens and the farmers markets, developing a network of hiking and biking trails both within county communities and between them, focusing on providing safe routes so our children can walk or bike to school, and supporting policies that promote healthful lifestyles.
These are by no means etched in granite. They are merely the products of brainstorming sessions and are only suggestions.
Here is where the public comes in to the picture. Without this public input, this is destined to become must another bunch of words, just another one of countless studies, surveys and reports in a big, fat three-ring binders gathering dust on a shelf in some office.
We need valuable input so this project reflects what the residents, their communities and their county want. We want the county to own it.
A healthy lifestyle means something different to everyone. For some, it is a community garden. Others a bike trail. Others, a safe, level, lighted place to walk. But, it is one thing to encourage folks to get out and be active, and to want to get out and be active. It is another to have the facilities available for that activity.
That is where this project comes into play.
But, this is bigger than us. This is about building something for the future so our kids and grandkids will have the opportunity to enjoy the active lifestyle we want for ourselves. This will foster a love of activity in them to benefit them throughout their lives and, hopefully, help make them want to return here to raise their families.
This is legacy project. This is a chance for us to leave a mark on the future, one that tells our heirs we care about them and the place they call home.
Sure, this is about crafting a project that meets our needs and wants. But, it’s about so much more. So, what DO you want the future to look like?
There is still more to this. Having a county with the infrastructure in place to promote healthful living and an attitude that we find such living important will go a long ways to making our little corner of the world more attractive to those looking to relocate.
This is a nice economic development tool. In essence, by having healthy residents, we could have a health county.
So, if someone asks you what you think, give some input. We want to shape this in the image of us all.
Dale Hogg is the managing editor of the Great Bend Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.