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A move in the right direction
County endorses walking, biking master plan
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 Janel Rose, Barton County health educator and Be Well Barton County coalition member, was absolutely right when she addressed count commissioners Monday morning. She presented the coalition’s Barton County Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan, a document meant as a flexible road map to improve access to walking and biking opportunities.

County health ranking for Barton County fell from ranking 64 in 2012 to 68 in 2014 and then to 86 in 2015 among Kansas counties, Rose said. “We need to improve overall health of our community or we will continue to fall in health ranking compared to other counties who are addressing needs of their residents.” 

She was also spot on when she said this all should be common sense. More access to active transportation options will go a long ways to reversing this depressing trend.

Also in a much welcome move, the Barton County Commission Monday morning endorsed the portion of the plan promoting improved walking and bicycling opportunities in the county. The action involved no financial commitment up front from the county.

“It’s important for use to take a leadership role,” said Commissioner Jennifer Schartz. The plan features chapters for the larger communities in the county and the county as a whole, the latter of which was endorsed Monday.

Last fall, Be Well Barton County contracted with RDG Consultants of Omaha, Neb., to develop a county-wide bicycle and pedestrian master plan. Through a survey and series of community workshops and community meetings (in Claflin, Ellinwood, Great Bend and Hoisington), concerns and data were collected. 

“The end result is an adaptable plan that includes both county and community networks encouraging active transportation,” Rose said. “This is a living, breathing document.”

That plan is now complete, creating a cohesive vision that may be used by local governments as a tool for planning and development, Rose said. 

In the coming weeks, coalition members will present the plan in Claflin, Ellinwood, Great Bend and Hoisington. It is hoped officials there share the same forward thinking and leadership shown by the commission.

“This is a very important step for our community,” Rose said. “It is all about connectivity (within and between communities) and safety.”

Momentum has been building for biking and walking in Barton County. Let’s keep this ball rolling.

Dale Hogg