If a group of Flandreau promoters get their wish, the community would have better access to a walking and biking path, more healthy food options and a more beautiful, vibrant main street.
The group that is involved in Healthy Hometown, free assistance provided by the insurance company Wellmark, had a brainstorming session last week to come up with ideas for a healthier community. The next likely step is a walking audit of the community in April, a chance to find out if there is good access throughout the community by foot. The audit area has yet to be determined.
“Kids don’t necessarily walk to school anymore. We don’t have gardens like we used to have gardens,” said Mary Lawyer, director of community health improvement for Wellmark out of Des Moines. Flandreau is one of only a few communities involved in the program in eastern South Dakota. Neighboring Dell Rapids is another.
Lawyer said participants should think about where they hope their town will be in five or 10 years.
The goals of the local group include making Flandreau more of a place that people want to live, work, play and interact more with each other. It’s a place where children are outside playing, downtown is vibrant and housing improvements are made.
With a walking audit, volunteers will look at the condition and access to sidewalks, safe street crossings, whether sidewalks go where people want to go, whether bump-outs could improve areas where people walk, accessibility for all people and whether there is something interesting to see when people are walking.
Members of the group want others to get involved, including participating in the walking audit.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of interest,” said Jason Unger, a lawyer who was among about a dozen people at the meeting organized by the Flandreau Development Corporation.
The group considered numerous ideas from simply having a place where people can get a drink of water if they are outside to a more inviting entrance to the community. They also talked about recreation opportunities such as disc golf and winter activities, including cross country skiing. In addition to helping with local health, initiatives can be good for the community overall, including economic development, organizers said.
Scott Hargens, administrator of the Avera Flandreau Hospital, volunteered to help with the walking audit and with a group that will look at encouraging healthier foods, such as fruits and vegetables in convenience stores and restaurants, for example.
He said the hospital’s dietician could meet with shoppers at Maynard’s to talk about healthier eating options and offer some taste tests. Some of the things the committee can do wouldn’t have to cost extra, said Hargens, who also has participated in a walking audit in Dell Rapids.