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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Group looks at making Le Mars healthier

Monday, May 5, 2008

A garden where people from the community can come grow their own vegetables and fruit.

More bike racks around town.

A website that lists recreation options and local food venders around the area.

These were just three of the ideas a community group is throwing around as possible additions to Le Mars through a program called Iowa Fit for Life.

The group's goal is to line up ways to use a $5,000 grant to promote exercise and eating healthy locally-grown foods.

They would have about a year to put their plan into action.

To promote more exercise through bicycle riding, the group suggested having more bike racks around town.

"Right now I just take my bike inside the store with me," laughed Clayton Hodgson of the local bike club. "I haven't got kicked out yet."

Another option was to start up a program called Safe Routes to School. The program starts with a community evaluation of how safe and usable walking and biking routes to the schools are, then does work on streets, sidewalks and crossings as needed.

Kids could also join a "walking bus route" to school, where an adult walks house to house to pick up kids to walk to school if they live close enough.

Developing these programs would take people investing time and energy, explained Steven Smith of the Iowa Fit for Life program. Smith moderated the meeting last week.

"And it would take community education," he said.

Wayne Marty, one of the people at the meeting, agreed. "I think an attitude change through education is almost as important as facility improvement," he said.

Group members plan to pursue talking with the local schools' Parent Teacher Organizations about developing Safe Routes to School in Le Mars.

The group also looked seriously at creating a website with area recreation options, events and local food vendors.

Listing those eight local produce sellers might also bring others to farmers' markets, one group member suggested.

"We could advertise our farmers' market a little better and also community things like the walking trail, YMCA events, anything related to fitness and wellness," said Carol Schneider, ISU Extension worker and a member of the group discussion.

A more adventurous option the group tossed around was to develop a community garden. The basic idea behind it would be to have a shared plot of land where people could host their own garden or work together on a large garden. Some of the challenges with that option would be buying the land and making sure a water source was available there.

Before the meeting was over, Smith, the moderator, reminded the group that the grant is not just about doing a couple of projects around town.

"We're also looking at one year out, five years, ten years," he said. "We want to help the community change their mental model of what it takes to be healthy."

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I think this would be a great idea for our community. It would get kids outside more and be more active.

-- Posted by longtimeresident on Tue, May 6, 2008, at 8:27 AM

I'm fortunate to live in a city that has over 500 miles of cycle trails and my wife and I make full use of them. During peak times they are like freeways with thousands of commuters pedaling to and fro. If anything, the city lacks facilities like bike racks.

The climate is an asset and bike riders can ride all year round.

While being a great fan of providing healthier choices, it is a case of leading a horse to water but not making them drink. Le Mars and the surrounding towns have many great facilities that are under utilized. Using hard earned funds for more facilities may just be throwing money away.

Providing facilities wont automatically make people excercise. Look at all those bike racks at the front of the High School, or rather,look at them during school time, they are almost empty but the surrounding streets are clogged with vehicles.

Unlike the theme of a famous Iowa movie, "Build it and they will come" this doesn't seem to work when it comes to providing excercise equipment.

So, good luck with that grant, but you may find bike racks downtown attract rust faster than users. Education is the first step, create a demand, then provide the facilities rather than expending those valuable funds for a few individuals who have already seen the light and don't appear to have suffered through the current lack of racks.

-- Posted by Don_Roberts on Tue, May 6, 2008, at 8:05 PM

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