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Push for healthy community continues

February 16, 2011
By Ashley Hoholik

MANISTIQUE - The Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians' Strategic Alliance for Health (SAH) is making strides to further the community health of Manistique. In a recent presentation to the Manistique City Council, SAH Community Coordinator Kerry Ott outlined some of the group's recent endeavors.

To date, the SAH in Manistique has spearheaded a number or tasks, including: the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) initiative, the Complete Streets Resolution passed by the city, and the highly-popular farmer's market.

According to Ott, last year's farmer's market, while only intended as a preview, ended up running from August to September, and experienced unprecedented success.

"People really enjoyed it - it was incredible," said Ott. "In my wildest dreams I never imagined it to be as successful as it was."

After the farmer's market wrapped up for the season, SAH conducted a farmer's survey, and received responses from 12 of the 17 farmers who participated in the market.

"They sold an estimated $6,300 worth of produce in those six weeks, which comes out to...1.6 tons of produce," she said. "Which isn't bad; that's pretty exciting."

While the SAH eventually plans to hand the market over to the farmers or interested planners, they continue to work on improvements, said Ott. This year, SAH developed criteria and a vendor agreement for farmer's which will ensure the quality of the market, she added.

This year's market will run from June 1 through Sept. 28, and the SAH will look into a $100,000 USDA grant for further marketing and promotion.

"The farmers actually are excited and are planning their crops and things, so they have something to sell in June and July, August and September," she said. "It's a very enthusiastic group of farmers we have coming back this year."

The SRTS grant application is another project SAH has undertaken, and Ott explained she is in the midst of the lengthy process.

"We're making good progress...I have committed most of February to working on the application itself," said Ott.

The SRTS grant is disbursed by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) from federal funds. Key routes used by children commuting to and from school have been identified, noted Ott, with the help of surveys.

"We do have all of our surveys back, all the parent's surveys, all the student's surveys; we have all the reports from MSU, so we're able to move along very fairly quickly," she said. "We've got some reports. We've got some really good data."

Now, SAH will work to obtain a resolution of support from the city and hold a public hearing for sections of the project where there are not currently sidewalks. The estimated $260,000 overhaul of the school routes requires no match from the city - only a payment for engineering services, added Ott. "This application is a monster," she said.

The SAH will also fund a $5,000 Non-motorized Transportation Plan (NMTP) that could not only assist the city in obtaining the Safe Routes to School grant, but other grants in their efforts to build a healthier community as well.

"The purpose of a Non-motorized Transportation Plan is to really lay out what we want the city of Manistique to look like, as far as walking and biking and other non-motorized forms of transportation," explained Ott. "When you have a good plan in are better prepared to apply for funding as we go forward. Grantors like to see that a city has a bigger vision in mind before they start funding piecemeal projects."

The NMTP will be created by Coleman Engineering Co., which has completed other projects with the city. According to Ott, the plan will include: mapping existing and proposed non-motorized facilities, focus groups, as well as preliminary engineering estimated for proposed improvements.

"Ideally, we're probably going to want to work in the focus groups with Coleman once the snow melts, so people can see where the sidewalks are, what the problems are - those types of things," said Ott.



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