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Westland, MI takes seriously the fun value of mud baths. In July every year Wayne County Parks and Recreation Department mixes 200 tons of topsoil and 20,000 gallons of water to create a giant lake of mud for children to play in at the “Mud Day” festival. They are following in the footsteps of spa resorts that for centuries have offered mud baths as a therapeutic treatment, and of children who have always loved to mess around in the earth. But now, this wickedly messy, and deliciously calming activity has been shown by scientific studies to offer some important health benefits.
Most long time residents of Salt Lake City will tell you, they would have never believed their city could be at the forefront of public transportation innovation. Looking back just a few decades, Salt Lake was just as automobile dependent as most rust belt cities. Local government support for new planning techniques has revolutionized the urban fabric in the last twenty years. Salt Lake City provides an outstanding example of the positive effects of urban planning and design. Creating an integrated transportation infrastructure has been a great achievement and offers a model for small cities too.
What were they thinking? They portray a girl in a car gloating while the embarrassed biker tries not to be identified? This ad, run in student newspapers and fliers across the country, infuriated and disgusted students, faculty and university staff. GM thought they were being very cute, but apparently they did not anticipate the angry backlash from bikers, walkers and all those who remember GM’s sleazy history.
We are saddened by the sudden passing of Peter Benson, President of the Search Institute and author of All Kids Are Our Kids. If you heard his speech at the 46th IMCL Conference in Santa Fe, or have read All Kids Are Our Kids, you will know that Peter was a passionate advocate for rebuilding community and an articulate exponent of why this task is so essential. His message is clear to all of us concerned with making our cities more healthy and livable: “If there were only one thing we could do to alter the course of socialization for American youth, it would be to reconstruct our towns and cities as intergenerational communities.” With a compact urban fabric, mixed use, mixed-income housing, walkable streets and public plazas we have the tools to achieve this. It is up to us to carry his mission forward.
What is a “Community Hub”? The term is being used in different ways, in different places. From the British “Pub is the Hub”, to schools, neighborhoods, and neighborhood plazas, they are all steps toward the creation of more livable communities. The only way we can make our cities and communities more healthy, livable, creative (and economically viable) is to throw out the single-function zoning precepts, and overlap functions. bringing diverse people and agendas together.
Making Healthy Places is an essential book for all those concerned with how the built environment affects physical, mental and social health and well-being. Andrew Dannenberg, Howard Frumkin and Richard Jackson have compiled a comprehensive text that lays out this new field of study, looks at the data, and identifies some of the tools for further research and assessment. While city officials, planners, urban designers and transportation planners are slowly moving towards a healthy, “True Urbanism” model of development that IMCL has promoted since 1985 (compact, mixed-use, community- and child-friendly, walkable and bikeable neighborhoods and cities), they have been held back by planning legislation and government funding that continue to promote unhealthy dependence on the automobile and separation of functions. Making Healthy Places will provide powerful levers to overturn unhealthy legislation and introduce healthier planning tools.
The creation of public spaces to celebrate cultural heritage and facilitate positive interaction between diverse community groups is an effective way to create healthy communities. In Portland, Oregon is a project that aims to do just that. The Portland Development Commission and the Albina Neighborhood Association are working together on a 2 million dollar renovation project for Dawson Park.
US Census Data Statistics shows a distinct correlation between obesity rates and the percentage of the population living below the poverty line. Seven of the top ten states on the obesity list also include the highest concentration of poverty. Highly processed foods are cheap, and many families sacrifice their dietary needs in order to purchase other necessary goods. Wholesome, nutrient-rich foods are costly and difficult to come by in many areas of the county. Why should access to adequate and healthy diets be reserved for the affluent population? The county of Tahema, California is taking leaps and bounds to change this trend and lessen the widening nutrition gap between income brackets.
Fostering intergenerational relationships between citizens should never be as difficult as nuclear fission. Encouraging conversation between all citizens is as easy as simple mathematics; take groups of individuals able to receive and give support, create a safe living environment, and voila! A livable community. The Bridge Meadows complex in Portland, Oregon has done just that.
It's encouraging when the topics of livability and sustainability begin to crop up in governmental policy and programmatic goals. After all, these concepts mean different things to different people and, as such, can be challenging goals to quantify and budget. It's even more encouraging when such an effort goes global. Recently, in a unique effort to promote more sustainable and livable communities, the US Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) signed a joint Declaration of Intent with Germany's Ministry of Transport, Building, and Urban Development (BMVBS). The ultimate goal is to develop a shared framework for improving urban sustainability and livability; to this end, the two entities would essentially exchange sustainability expert information, research, and consultants. In addition, the effort hopes to host bilateral conferences and meetings while sponsoring joint research studies.
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