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Healthy living starts in the hometown

Federal Way’s wide streets, heavy traffic and sparse sidewalks often do not make for the most ideal setting for walking, jogging or biking.

But with this realization, the city’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services department is preparing to improve and extend existing trails as well as map out foot and bicycle routes to popular destinations within the city, said Betty Sanders, park planning and development coordinator.

The city wishes to encourage healthy lifestyles and frequent exercise among its residents, Sanders said.

Federal Way is one of eight cities in King County that is being considered for the opportunity to enact the King County Food and Fitness Initiative. The initiative will be funded in its two-year planning phase by a $500,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, said Erin MacDougall, Healthy Eating and Active Learning program manager at Public Health-Seattle & King County.

The fine details of the initiative are still being ironed out, but the overall goal is clear: To reduce chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity in the communities selected, MacDougall said.

The eight cities were demographically identified by Public Health-Seattle & King County and Washington State University King County Extension as areas in which access to locally grown food and physical activity may assist in reducing serious health conditions, MacDougall said.

The initiative is still in its beginning stages, and criteria for selecting two of the eight cities will commence in September. Deliberations will last through January 2008, when the final two cities will be selected MacDougall said. Implementation in the two cities is expected to begin around spring 2009 and continue for another five to eight years.

Focusing on fitness

In Federal Way, city officials are currently concerned more with improving residents’ health through physical activity rather than access to locally grown foods, Sanders said.

The Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services department discovered — through the 2006 Parks, Recreation and Open spaces plan — that the city’s residents have a desire to maintain their health by walking, jogging or taking their pets for a stroll, but are unsatisfied with Federal Way’s options to do so, Sanders said.

“At this point, we’ve really focused on the fitness side of (the initiative),” Sanders said.

Improving and expanding the trails would enhance quality of life by providing residents with a way to be active in a safe environment, Sanders said. The project is an opportunity for the city’s government to express its concerns for the well-being of its citizens, Sanders said.

“Today, local governments have not been really involved in improving their population’s health situation,” she said.

Although Federal Way does not have any guarantee that it will be a finalist to carry out the initiative, city officials plan to go forward with the expansion and improvements of the trail system regardless, Sanders said. The city has set aside money in its current budget to dedicate toward this project, but receiving a grant could make the project flourish, Sanders said.

If Federal Way were selected to implement the initiative, grants through the W.K. Kellogg Foundation could allow for more robust improvements to the trail system, Sanders said.

Whether selected or not, the first step will include educating residents as to where Federal Way trails are located, Sanders said. Maps, which will detail foot and bicycle routes that could be used to reach popular locations within the city, will also be included in this phase, Sanders said.

The maps are a way for physically active residents to identify new locations to exercise and a means of calling attention to current trails, she said. Routes featured on the maps will be rated on a level of difficulty dependent upon their topography, Sanders said.

Within 10 years, the city would like to provide asphalt links between current sidewalks or trails, Sanders said. Many efforts are expected to go toward the BPA trail, she said. Those that use the trail have noted that they would like to see it connect with other trails, Sanders said.

This is just one of many options the city could consider to increase the mileage of its trails.

“One of the things we’ve always wanted to do is to get some sort of walking connection from Celebration Park to Steel Lake Park,” Sanders said. “It’s a no man’s land now.”

Public Health-Seattle & King County wishes to see each of the eight contesting cities embrace feedback from their populations on what changes and improvements they would like to witness, MacDougall said.

Federal Way plans to seek the assistance of its residents to distinguish routes to be included on the maps, Sanders said. People will have the opportunity to participate in the first phase of the project by submitting a description of their favorite walking or biking trail, or by completing a survey that will appear on the city’s Web site, she said.

As details about the initiative are cemented and public input gathered, the city can better determine what improvements need to be made and to make them, Sanders said.

“The more community engagement, the better,” MacDougall said.

Contact Jacinda Howard:

jhoward@fedwaymirror.com.

Learn more

To learn about the King County Food and Fitness Initiative, visit http://king.wsu.edu/foodandfarms/kcffi.html. To learn about the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, visit www.wkkf.org.

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