Smart design & smart growth will set course for healthy living

Mark Fenton’s straight forward goal tops the home page of his Website:

“Build communities that support a healthier, more physically active population, and more sustainable and enjoyable lifestyles.”

fentonPublic health consultant Mark Fenton, former host of PBS’ “America’s Walking” series, guides a “walkability audit” around Lancaster. (Blaine T. Shahan / Staff) – SOURCE: Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era

Yesterday morning, in a room of about 80 or so people at the Lancaster County Public Safety Training Center, Columbia’s mayor Leo Lutz welcomed everyone to the half-day Smart Growth seminar/workshop which featured Fenton and his healthy communities concepts. Those assembled represented interested parties from the county: persons in the private sector, education, elected public servants, non-profits, healthcare, government offices and other citizens interested in developing a healthier Lancaster County for tomorrow.

Read this article in today’s Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era: “Consultant: Smart design can yield healthy habits: During local ‘walkability audit,’ former PBS host says physical activity can spring from infrastruture changes,” to find out more about his walkabout survey and yesterday’s Smart Growth seminar. Fenton has a Powerpoint on his Website that has is the “meat and potatoes” of yesterday’s presentation, which was localized with local photographs.

You can see the presentation by clicking on the photo below.

fenton powerpoint

For years, Columbia news, views & reviews has maintained that Columbia is a very walkable town featuring exceptional architecture, interesting neighborhoods and relatively flat terrain … and the walk across the bridge is unmatched.

Fenton talked about the real estate industry’s inspired Website, Walk Score, as an ideal way to measure a community’s “walkability.” Walk Score says: “Walking is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to stay healthy.  A study by the University of Utah showed that the average person in a walkable neighborhood weighs 6-10 pounds less than someone in an unwalkable neighborhood. We’re seeing a growing body of research using Walk Score data to study the relationship between where people live and health outcomes.”

Check it out! Click on Walk Score and enter your address; you’ll see that Columbia’s scores are relatively high.

“free-range children” come from “helicopter parents”

One of the points Fenton drove home during his comments was the one: “free-range children.” He asked the seminar participants to close their eyes and think back to their first “feeling good” memory of a happy play experience. He asked whether playmates were all the same age. He asked whether parents took you to the play venue. He asked whether everyone wore uniforms and whether there were adult referees or umpires.

He made those points to introduce the concept of “free-range children” and the healthier outcomes of unstructured play – the way everyone used to do.

fenton free range

Turns out the “shift” from “free-range children” may be a result of cautiousness, fear or being “overbearing, over-scheduling ‘helicopter’ parents.

Read more about “free-range” kids and parenting:

“goat-paths” instead of long trails first

Fenton made key points for community consideration. He encouraged everyone to save this beautiful county by getting involved to build smart; control needless counter-productive sprawl; think about inclusive roadways that include smart design to facilitate walkers and cyclists; get elected public servants focused on longer-term initiatives that serve on-coming generations and to use the power of “programs, projects and policies.”

“Programs: Educate & encourage behavior change; build awareness, skills, & plans.

“Projects: Create inviting settings & an environment for healthier behavior.

“Policies: Rewrite the rules so healthy designs are the norm, changes stick, & people are rewarded for making the active,healthy choice!

He extolled the “goat path” – that short-cut, “place where pedestrians had created a trail through the grass for lack of charted territory.” Before waiting generations (and funding) for the completion of long-term recreational trails, Fenton asks communities to look for more easily attainable cross-neighborhood user-friendly goat paths that encourage walkers and cyclists.

Following Fenton’s one-hour presentation, the seminar participants broke out into topic discussion workshop sessions. The seminar concluded with workshop wrap-up reports and Fenton’s optimistic challenge to have an involved citizenry demand skilled “Professionals (bureaucrats) to keep the system running and “elected, appointed officials & private sector to set the tone.”

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