A nationally known wellness expert will tour Crawford County next week and provide pointers on how the communities can utilize area resources to maximize wellness.
Live Well Crawford County is bringing Mark Fenton to the area Monday through Wednesday of next week so he can assess the communities and offer information that could be used by area leadership to make decisions to promote residential health initiatives and economic vitality.
“Ultimately, we want the communities to be healthier overall,” said Kristin Thomas, who has worked through Live Well Crawford County to help arrange Fenton’s visit.
She said Fenton’s name kept coming up at conferences and Live Well, along with other area agencies, began working to arrange for him to visit.
“His name kept popping up from other communities and other regions that have brought him in,” Thomas said. “We actually started in Jan. 2012 trying to get him here.”
“He’s just in such high demand,” she added. “He happened to have an opening for us in March where he could get here.”
She said the agencies, including cities, schools, government, the health department, not-for-profits, businesses and more, are hoping to gain ideas from Fenton’s knowledge and experience.
“The main reason we were wanting to get him here was to share information on what works and what doesn’t work,” Thomas said. “He’s an expert at looking at your community and taking a very personal approach to it. He would never tell you what to do, and he would never make a decision for your community.”
She said some of Fenton’s areas of expertise correspond well with projects currently under way or being considered in Crawford County.
“The timing couldn’t have been more perfect to get him here,” she said.
Bill Beasley, director of public works in Pittsburg, agreed. He said Pittsburg has applied for a grant from the Kansas Department of Transportation to help connect trails and Fenton could offer valuable advice at this particular juncture.
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“We’re really fortunate that they’re able to make these arrangements,” he said. “We want him to teach us what to look for when we’re looking at the best trails.”
Beasley said the trick won’t just be having advice for present projects. He said this is a great chance to gain future knowledge of what to look for and what makes a trail people-friendly.
“We feel like we need to be more progressive in that way,” he said.
However, trails are just one stop in Fenton’s tightly packed schedule, which have him assessing overall wellness throughout the county.
Thomas said the City of Girard is looking forward to Fenton’s input for its Safe Routes and Envision Girard projects.
“They’re very eager about getting some feedback,” she said.
“The schools are really interested in what he has to say, because that’s one of his areas of expertise as well,” Thomas added.
Girard and Pittsburg were the two communities most involved in facilitating Fenton’s visit, but Beasley said the communities receiving more of Fenton’s time hope to pass the knowledge to other communities that have been less involved in the process.
A document prepared by Live Well Crawford County outlines the following as specific items on Fenton’s agenda during his visit.
• “Mark will meet with community groups, leaders and community members to endorse the value of a more livable and healthy community and discuss what is needed to achieve one.
• “Mark will observe the communities’ readiness to support the specific actions for improvement.
• “Mark will suggest improvements that can be made in the assessment areas to bicycle and pedestrian features and the general livability environment.
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• “Mark will be presenting to the Girard City, Crawford County and City of Pittsburg Commissions during their regular legislative sessions.
• “Mark will be presenting to high school upperclassmen on Elk’s Student Government Day.
• “Mark will be conducting two community walk/windshield audits”
(Note: Fenton’s Crawford County Commission visit has since been canceled.)
Fenton will tour the county via vehicle and foot, attend several meetings and share feedback with leaders and the public.
“We have some times built into our schedule where he will provide us some feedback,” Thomas said. “He wants to share it as we go along.”
She said feedback will include looking at what is already in the area that works well and considering what could be added or supplemented. Fenton also will look at the area’s synergy and how agencies can work together for common goals.
“We’ve got a lot to get in in a short amount of time,” she said, adding that they will utilize every minute of feedback, including his departure.
“We’ll continue to talk to him toward the airport,” she said.