LWVGB Members learn about plans for a healthier community
and help plan the 10/10/10 Global Work Party
At our September 30, 2010 meeting in the Electra Room of Alabama Power in downtown Birmingham, our speakers were from the Jefferson County Department of Health (JCDH) which is administering $13.3 million in grants to from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. JCDH is leading a community coalition to support prevention efforts to reduce tobacco use ($7 million) and obesity ($6.3 million), both problems in our community. Awards from the two grants have been made to 19 organizations as part of the Communities Putting Prevention to Work grants. (see www.championsforhealth.org)
Dr. Teri Chafin, Director of Community and Dental Health, who is the Project Director for both programs, and Suzette Harris, who serves as Obesity Program Manager, gave us an excellent overview of the policy outcomes targeted by the grants.
The tobacco grant is working on: the adoption of a county-wide 100% smoke-free policy; eliminating distribution of tobacco samples and price discounts of tobacco products on higher education campuses in the county; required government warnings about the dangers of tobacco at the point of purchase; and passage of a tobacco excise tax by the Alabama State legislature.
Desired outcomes from the Obesity projects include: advancing smart growth land use policies; nutritional information available at point of purchase; improving access to fresh produce in underserved communities; child care center requirements for nutrition, physical activity, video screen time, and 3rd hand smoke exposure; nutrition training for all cafeteria workers; after school wellness policies; and improving the environment for physical activity by increasing use of flexible spending accounts for weight management programs.
After hearing an overview of the Health Action Partnership grants, the meeting focused on planning for the League’s 10/10/10 Work Party for the Planet project, the Railroad Park Ramble for Our One Mile. Our co-sponsors for the Ramble include Freshwater Land Trust, Jefferson County Health Action Partners, Operation New Birmingham, Railroad Park, Alabama Environmental Council (AEC), and Conservation Alabama Foundation (CAF). Representatives of AEC and CAF joined Teri and Suzette and our members to plan the final details for our Work Party supporting Our One Mile.
The Our One Mile project is part of the effort to combat Jefferson’s County obesity rate, which is over 30%. This Freshwater Land Trust initiative will connect the community’s places by creating a comprehensive greenway master plan for Jefferson County. The Our One Mile kickoff was on Tuesday, October 12, and visibility and interest for that important event was definitely raised by the Ramble the prior Sunday. The Land Trust will be soliciting public input to help identify a network of over 100 miles of trails, greenways and blueways to create a workable greenways plan for every community. There will be opportunities during October, November and December to come to meetings or provide information for the plan online. (See www.freshwaterlandtrust.org/our-one-mile)
The Railroad Park Ramble for Our One Mile Work Party for the Planet 10/10/10
In addition to supporting Our One Mile and celebrating Railroad Park, another purpose in organizing the Railroad Park Ramble was to encourage people to use person-power for more of their destination short trips. If the healthy walking and biking choice is the easy choice, we can improve health, increase short-term air quality and cut down on greenhouse gas emissions to address climate change.
We appreciate the thirty people who came together on September 21st to help define the Ramble and then spread the word and support it. We enjoyed working with our co-sponsors and volunteers from the community who heard about the project and came to help. In addition to the sponsors’ support, we had some printing provided by the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham, which has laid the groundwork for pedestrian and cycling paths for years. The backbone of our work team came from the eight AmeriCorps volunteers who’ve spent the last five weeks in Birmingham building houses for Habitat for Humanity and we certainly thank them.
The invitation instructions for the Ramble said (see the flyer):
… park your car – then walk, run, bike, rollerblade, skateboard, push your stroller or wheelchair … from your chosen spot to Railroad Park, tell us about your Ramble and enjoy the Park. 1 PM to 3 PM – rain or shine! Rally and photo at 2:30 (see the notice at www.lwvgb.org).
If you can’t fit in a ride or walk that day, come to the Park anyway. You’ll hear about the Our One Mile Kickoff scheduled for Tuesday, October 12, 5:30-7:30 at the Alagasco Center for Energy Technology, 1st Ave, 20th St. S. You can also use the information to plan future walks/rides and help identify and assess routes important to you.
Photo by Jeff Roberts, courtesy of The Birmingham News.
And come they did!!
We had over 75 people who signed in and a lot more who didn’t. We received 45 bikeability and 45 walkability checklists which we’ll turn over to the Our One Mile greenway planners. See the group photo, taken by professional photographer Monika Duran, in the photo slider at top. Thank you, Monika!
People shared their hopes for a healthy, connected community – posting around 200 messages which will also go to the greenway planners. Just a few:
A public transportation system that encourages people to use it
Continuous bike lanes from Highland Avenue to Railroad Park
Bike lanes – and light up the smoke stacks at night
Public transport stops @ RR Park! Compost bins
Bike trails that are wide enough for both bikes and walkers
Bike lanes or paths crossing over the ridges in Birmingham
Connect Vulcan Park to here, and connect to Homewood Park, Sloss, Zoo, Botanical Gardens, town.
Get businesses and individuals to stop parking on sidewalks leading into Homewood.
I wish there was a bike trail from Irondale to here.
And some about the Park:
Dear Park, Hello, I would like free rentable go carts to ride on, Thanks
Bus service to get here
Love love love the Park! Still need bike routes in B’ham
Big trees for shade to read books and take naps
Let’s rent bicycles for visitors
Have a community day once a month full of games, movies and fun!
Free wi-fi (actually, it’s already available)
Train rides, face painting, a pool
And even a personal aspiration:
I want to be a teacher.
Maybe that young person will grow up to teach us all how to live in a more healthy, connected, and environmentally sustainable community. League members who participated in the Ramble all feel that we helped move the greater Birmingham area in that direction on Sunday, October 10 at Railroad Park with our Work Party for the Planet.
Just to top it off, in line with our basic purpose to make democracy work for all citizens, our Voter Services chair, Ginny Randolph, and President, Sarah McDonald, registered five new young voters and gave forms to several others.
So thanks to all who participated in any way in the Ramble and encouragement to all to continue recruiting friends to share information with Our One Mile in the coming months.
Read about the Railroad Park Ramble in "Bikers, walkers weigh in on Birmingham Railroad Park plan (with gallery)," an Oct. 11, 2010 front page article by Marie Leech in The Birmingham News on al.com.
Joyce Lanning, Natural Resources Chair