SC Communities to Benefit from Healthy Eating, Active Living Grant

SC Communities to Benefit from Healthy Eating, Active Living Grant

The BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, has awarded Eat Smart Move More South Carolina (ESMMSC) $800,000 over the next three years to support Let’s Go 3.0, which will increase the capacity of community coalitions in South Carolina to identify and address barriers to healthy eating and active living. Coalitions will be able to apply for mini-grants to fund small-scale projects that are needed to help catapult their healthy eating and active living initiatives.

“Over the past several years, we’ve noticed that community change doesn’t always require large sums of money,” says Beth Franco, Executive Director of ESMMSC. “Many communities in South Carolina, particularly our small, rural, or economically vulnerable communities, can leverage small amounts of money to make a significant impact on the health of their community. We believe that these mini-grant opportunities will be a key factor in making sustainable changes and improving lifestyle choices.”

The application process will be open to community coalitions that need assistance in implementing policy, systems, and environmental changes that will increase access to healthy, affordable foods and safe places to be physically active. The mini-grants, ranging from $1,000 to $5,000, can be used to implement projects, such as adding bike racks downtown, beautifying neighborhood parks or trails, or supporting local farmers’ markets.

South Carolina has the 12th highest adult obesity rate in the nation (32.3%) and the eighth highest obesity rate for high schoolers (16.3%). Current trends nationwide and in South Carolina show rates beginning to stabilize, suggesting that obesity-prevention efforts over the past decade are beginning to pay off.

“The next few years will be critical to ensure that the progress we’ve seen continues and our collective accomplishments are not undermined,” said Franco. “Through this grant, we’ll be able to help close the gap in many communities and increase opportunities for residents to make healthy choices.”

ESMMSC staff will continue to provide training and support to local coalitions to strengthen their capacity to make lasting community change. ESMMSC’s work with community coalitions currently reaches 36 counties, covering 93% of the state’s population. Recent trainings and reports have included topics like disability inclusion, grant writing, race equity, and the economic impact of active communities.

For more information about the Let’s Go 3.0 initiative, visit our Let’s Go! Grants page or contact Kelsey Allen at kelsey@eatsmartmovemoresc.org.  To find healthy resources in your community, visit www.letsgosc.org.

 

Let’s Go! SC Initiative Shows Positive Results

Let’s Go! SC Initiative Shows Positive Results

Over the past three years, six communities participated in the Let’s Go! South Carolina initiative, implementing strategies across multiple sectors to increase access to healthy foods and physical activity. Coalition members from each of the six communities – Anderson, Barnwell, Hampton, Kershaw, Laurens, and York counties – gathered recently to learn about their impact and to celebrate a job well done.

“We are so proud of the impact the Let’s Go! SC project has had over the past three years,” said Beth Franco, executive director of Eat Smart Move More South Carolina. “It wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication and leadership from these six coalitions.”

The Let’s Go! SC evaluation team spent a rigorous amount of time collecting data on the community projects to determine impact. The six communities had an impressive collective impact:

  • $1.3 million leveraged through grants, donations, and matched funds
  • 36,327 students have access to healthier school environments due to partnerships with Alliance for a Healthier Generation
  • 24,736 SNAP recipients in three counties now have access to fresh produce at farmers’ markets
  • 43,985 people live within a mile of a park or path enhanced by a coalition
  • 17 parks, playgrounds, and trails were improved
  • 75+ youth were trained through the HYPE project

Evaluators also determined individual community impacts, which can be found here.

“Community work can be hard,” said Hannah Walters, senior project manager at ESMMSC. “Change always takes longer than we want or expect. But, the Let’s Go project has shown us just how rewarding and impactful incremental changes can be in a community. Whether it’s bringing a new partner to the table or getting a new trail installed in your community, we know that success comes in all shapes and sizes.”

The Let’s Go! South Carolina Initiative was funded by the BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

City of Newberry Gets Wheelchair-Accessible Swings

City of Newberry Gets Wheelchair-Accessible Swings

NEWBERRY OBSERVER

The City of Newberry unveiled two new accessible wheelchair swings recently at Marion Davis Park.

The swings, IP15 iSwings, are the first of their kind in the United States. Scott Sawyer, City of Newberry Parks, Recreation and Tourism director said that not only was it a great day in Newberry, but an even greater moment for the special needs community.

“This particular project started in the winter of 2015, so we’re about two years into this. Staff met with some parents of special needs children in spring of 2016 and in September 2016 the City established the first Recreation Accessibility Team,” Sawyer said. “Thankfully in November we secured a Parks and Recreation Development Fund Grant of $30,000. Once that came to fruition, we knew we could upgrade and get the best things for these kids and adults.”

The IP15 iSwings were manufactured by the Inclusive Play Company, based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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Sweet Gum Trail is Open to Public

Sweet Gum Trail is Open to Public

Published in the Chronicle-Independent
November 10, 2017

Tall Longleaf pines stood silent guard as the first official hikers took to the Sweet Gum Trail in Camden on Tuesday afternoon. About 50 people participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the official opening of the 2/3-mile trail that now connects Scott and Woodward parks.

Tuesday’s ceremony took place at the Woodward Park trail head. Visitors entering the park from Chestnut Ferry Road just off West DeKalb Street can make a right turn after passing the park’s tennis courts and find the trail head next to a baseball field at the end of the road.

The 10-foot wide, paved trail winds through woods behind Woodward’s baseball fields, running just a few feet away from the railroad that cuts through the city near West DeKalb Street’s Donald Holland Bridge over the tracks. The Amtrak station can be seen through the trees at one point. The trail continues around behind the park before coming to a point where it heads straight toward Scott Park off Battleship Road.

That trail head meets Scott Park’s unpaved walking/running track. Hikers, runners and bikers wanting to use the Sweet Gum Trail from Scott Park will need to make their way nearly half-way around the track to meet the trail.

City Manager Mel Pearson welcomed guests to the short ceremony saying he knew the track was wide enough to accommodate both walkers and bikers at the same time.

“I know that because a young lady on a bicycle lapped us five times the other day while we got from one end to the other and I think there were a couple of walkers who lapped us also,” Pearson said.

Pearson said the Sweet Gum Trail marks the completion of Camden and Kershaw County’s first steps in creating a truly county-wide trail system connecting other trails and parks across the county.

“This is the first of that county wide plan. Now, I don’t want you to underestimate Kendall Park; it’s a very nice, half-mile trail over there. It’s a rubberized surface, but this trail has a lot of potential to be connected to other trails in the parks and we’re excited about the beginning here,” he said.

Pam Spivey, of Eat Smart Move More Kershaw County (ESMMKC), ebulliently declared Tuesday’s ribbon cutting a “dream in the making for years.”

“(We) used $65,000 in grant funding to hire all the planning to put together a county-wide pedestrian greenways plan,” Spivey said. “This plan was adopted by our city government and county government and because of that, decisions around existing upgrades and new construction … have allowances for our pedestrians, our parks, our streets. All these things are worked out before these projects begin.”

Spivey said the collaboration between ESMMKC, the city and county is why there is now an “amazing” opportunity.

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Small Businesses, Local Economies Reap the Benefits of Active Communities

Small Businesses, Local Economies Reap the Benefits of Active Communities

report_coverBusiness is booming in many South Carolina towns and cities thanks to local infrastructure projects that have made communities more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly. Ten municipalities, featured in a new report released today by Eat Smart Move More South Carolina, have noted millions of dollars in returns on investments, not to mention more active citizens. In Stronger Economies Through Active Communities: The Economic Impact of Walkable, Bikeable Communities in South Carolina, small business and municipal leaders are seeing large returns on investments in health.

In one such case, the cities of Easley and Pickens jointly built a 7.5-mile multi-use, paved rail trail, called the Doodle Trail, to provide citizens with a safe place to be active. Since its completion in 2015, both cities have experienced business growth, and Pickens’ hospitality tax revenues grew 12%. Property values near the trail are also on the rise.

“The Doodle Trail in Easley supports our business,” said Cindy Maxey, owner of Upcountry Outdoors, LLC. “Our bike shop would not have opened if it had not been for the trail.”

According to Pickens Mayor David Owens, the Doodle Trail meets all of their needs. “Our residents needed to be active and healthy, and we also wanted to bring people into Pickens to visit our community. We just needed a place to do all that.”

Many small businesses in the featured communities are experiencing economic growth, and municipalities have seen increased property values, more private investments, and a rise in tourism. Importantly, citizens also are using these resources to lead more active lives.

  • The 6.5-mile Spanish Moss Trail, which links the City of Beaufort to Port Royal, has become a popular attraction for tourists and residents, serving 36,500 people in 2015. The city advertises the trail in its marketing campaigns, and local hotels lend bikes to guests for use on the trail. The local outfitters store has also seen an increase in sales.
  • Beginning in 2005, Charleston-area leaders and advocates designed a 32-mile pedestrian and bike route called Battery2Beach that connects the Charleston Battery to nearby beaches. A 2011 cost-benefit analysis determined that the route would generate $42 million annually by drawing more tourists.
  • Through a series of tax incentives and private investments, the City of Columbia has revitalized Main Street, improving sidewalks, landscaping, and adding decorative lighting and signage. Countless new restaurants and businesses have opened, drawing many pedestrians and cyclists.
  • After a $3.5 million investment in street and sidewalk repairs to revitalize downtown and connect neighborhoods to trails and parks, the City of Florence has become a hot spot for private development and new business growth. Property values have nearly tripled, and rents downtown are on the rise.
  • Greenville County constructed the Swamp Rabbit Trail, a 21-mile rail trail that stretches from Travelers Rest to Greenville. The trail draws more than 500,000 visitors each year and generates $6.7 million in tourism-based revenue. Both Greenville and Travelers Rest have seen many new businesses open that are supported by trail users, and existing businesses have seen increases in sales/revenue up to 85%.
  • The City of Hartsville invested $2.8 million in sidewalk repairs along College Avenue, a corridor that connects Coker College to the downtown area, and in a pocket park at Mantissa Alley. The sidewalk improvements, which are still underway, are expected to foster new business growth by increasing foot traffic downtown, and the pocket park has already attracted two new shops.
  • Through a public-private partnership, the City of Rock Hill created several public recreation venues at a mixed-use development along the Catawba River. Among them are the Piedmont Medical Center Trail, which draws an average 12,000 visitors each month, and two Olympic-caliber cycling facilities. One 3-day event in 2016 created approximately $2.5 million in direct economic impact from hotel stays, restaurant sales and other purchases.
  • The City of Spartanburg partnered with Partners for Active Living (PAL) to widen sidewalks, install bike lanes and extend existing trails. PAL also created the state’s first bike-share systems, including BCycle. The city has already seen significant economic benefits, including many new downtown businesses. Approximately 6,500 BCycle riders have made over 11,000 trips around the city since 2011.
  • The City of Walterboro is in the process of renovating the connector loop to I-95, which will include sidewalks, bike lanes, street lamps and decorative lighting. The loop is designed to draw tourists from the highway to Walterboro’s attractions, including the Great Swamp Sanctuary, a popular destination for walkers, cyclists and school groups. With as many as 85,000 motorists using I-95 on busy days, Walterboro stands to benefit significantly from increased tourism as a result of this project.

Many other communities across South Carolina have had success in creating built environments that promote active lifestyles, and in doing so have seen economic and fiscal benefits. The ten communities highlighted in this report range in size, region, and demographics, and their efforts can serve as models of success for other communities in the state. To learn more about what South Carolina communities are doing to promote healthy, active lifestyles, visit www.esmmsc.org.

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