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If seeing 5,000 runners and walkers on Columbus streets a month ago wasn’t enough, there is new evidence that city residents are taking additional steps to develop healthier lifestyles.
That’s what organizers had in mind when launching the Mill Race Marathon. While more people have launched new exercise regimens since the Sept. 28 inaugural race, the marathon committee is spreading some seed money through the community to build on that momentum.
It distributed checks last week for $40,000 each to the Columbus Park Foundation and Reach Healthy Communities, organizations selected because of their efforts to support health and fitness.
The money will go toward expanding the city’s People Trails system and increasing the amount of locally produced food sold to consumers.
Dave Crompton, a Cummins executive and race organizer, said he found it rewarding to see how an entire community came together for the marathon, from the participants and volunteers to sponsors and community supporters.
“We found we could broaden the appeal and commitment to healthy lifestyles by engaging the community,” said Crompton, a Cummins vice president and general manager for its engine business. “It served as a catalyst.”
Mayor Kristen Brown honored key marathon committee members Monday with keys to the city, the first time she’d done that in her two years as mayor, also recognizing the huge effect the marathon is having on the health of this city.
People Trails expansion
Ben Wagner, director of Columbus Parks and Recreation Department, said its $40,000 in marathon funds will help with ongoing work to improve the People Trails, a 15-mile path of the city’s 40-mile trail system.
It’s a natural fit, Wagner added, since many of the local runners and walkers training for the full or half-marathon or five-kilometer events use the trails.
A portion of the marathon course originally was going to be run on part of the trail as well. But because of its narrow width, organizers determined it would be safer to move the race to roadways.
“We see so many more people using the People Trails,” Wagner said. “Its runners, walkers, people rollerblading, pushing baby strollers.”
The gift could be used for one of two high-priority trail projects, said April Williams, project and resource development director for Columbus Park Foundation.
One is rerouting the trail at 25th Street and National Road so it will go under the bridge to improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists, who now must cross at the busy intersection.
The other project involves an expansion of the trail that would connect the Jonathan Moore Pike area and the Hawcreek Trail section near State and Second streets.
The trail currently ends near the Pump House on Lindsey Street. It eventually would be extended to run along the railroad track that runs adjacent to Second Street, beneath the State Street bridge and to the section of the trail on Central Avenue in front of Cummins’ Columbus Engine Plant.
Williams said expansion of the trails also would benefit a growing number of bicycle commuters who use the paths.
A recent survey completed by Indiana University School of Public Health showed that residents were overwhelmingly supportive of the People Trails, citing their contribution to community fitness, health, pride and transportation alternatives.
The $40,000 in funds donated to Reach Healthy Communities will be used to pay for an already completed study aimed at helping channel more locally produced food to area residents.
Beth Morris, director of community health partnerships for Columbus Regional Health, said only about 5 percent of locally produced food is sold to area consumers, based on the study conducted in September.
Although progress has been made with expansion of area farmers markets and work to establish a local food coop, the study helped identify barriers to increasing the availability of local food.
“It let us know where the gaps are and will help us map ways to make changes,” Morris said.
Some options include providing mini-grants to organizations to encourage use of local foods, more promotion of farmers markets and connecting residents to area farmers.
The study also highlighted the economic impact of consumers using more local foods.
Farms in Bartholomew and Jackson counties could generate $31 million in new revenue a year if residents purchased just $5 a week of local foods, according to the study presented by Ken Meter of Crossroads Resource Center of Minneapolis.
Morris said her group will continue to look at ways to get healthy, affordable foods to residents through a variety of channels, including working with schools, which already have incorporated more fruits and vegetables into lunch menus.
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