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SOUTH KINGSTOWN â€“ The town of South Kingstown is taking steps to be healthier as it partners with the South County YMCA and engages in the new Healthy Places By Design Program with the community.
At Tuesday nightâ€™s town council meeting, Director of Planning Vincent Murray stated that the new project represents a unique opportunity for the town to partner with local community organizations to engage the public in developing policies that support physical activity and access to healthy food. The program will end with a community summit on Tuesday, Nov. 15 through Tuesday, Nov. 22, which will bring together the community with the town officials and the YMCA.
â€śThe goal of the program is to incorporate community health policies and local comprehensive planning ordinances to promote a more active lifestyle in the community. In the process, we hope to address issues like how to make our sidewalks more bikeable and walkable, how to enhance rec opps and to provide better access to healthy foods,â€ť Murray said.
South Kingstown is one of three Rhode Island communities, including North Kingstown and Pawtucket, participating in the program. The state awarded the town $224,337 in funding for the program from the Department of Health. The town applied for the grant on Jan. 7 and the state Department of Health finalized the award contract and purchase order to the town to begin work on the project on Aug. 18. Funding for the initiative comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Actâ€™s Communities Putting Prevention to Work Award to the state of Rhode Island.
The town has partnered with the South County YMCA, which will act as the community based organization and lead the projectâ€™s outreach and public engagement efforts. The Jonnycake Center and the Thundermist Health Center of South County will also work with the town to engage clients.
In addition to outreach, the YMCA will be conducting an assessment to see how the community is doing in supporting and advancing healthy environments for their residents. Public participation is needed to identify aspects of the community that could be modified or changed in order to promote healthier living.
Murray said the community participation is an integral part of the program and will have a role in a series of interactive public workshops focused on community health issues such as walkability, access to recreation, and access to healthy foods.
Murray said South Kingstown sent out 700 surveys to a sample of the community to generate interest. The survey can be found at skhealthyplacesbydesign.webs.com./ or the Neighborhood Guild, the Town Hall and all of the town libraries.
â€śI think itâ€™s an exciting prospect because it is a positive oriented effort in making better what we have. The town has very good healthy infrastructure in place to support its natural setting and all facilities available by the town and through private organizations. Its way to bring them all together and speak about them in public policy fashion,â€ť Murray said.
The project will kick off with a series of workshops, with the first one being at the town hall on Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. as part of the planning boardâ€™s work session.
â€śWe hope to have good engaged dialogue with community. It seeks to see how you can bring healthy community portion into land use aspect of the town,â€ť Murray said.
The project will culminate in the consideration of amendments to the townâ€™s comprehensive plan based on the information and improvement ideas shared by community residents. The project will also serve as a model for other Rhode Island communities.
Oct 18 at the South County YMCA, 165 Broad Rock Road
Oct. 26 at the town hall, 180 High Street.
Nov. 5 at the Thundermist Health Center
Nov. 9 at the South County YMCA