Notable News

September 1, 2016, Department, by NRPA

-     Six years ago, in the economically depressed South Dallas community of Frazier, Baylor Scott and White Health opened the Diabetes Health and Wellness Institute at the underutilized Juanita J. Craft Recreation Center. The establishment of this institute created an access point to health care in the community and helped to lower traffic in the emergency department of the local hospital. The renovated facility offers a family health center, primary care clinic, diabetes education services and even a demonstration kitchen to help residents learn about healthful eating. On the 22 acres surrounding the center residents can take advantage of tennis and basketball courts, walking paths and lifestyle classes. Frazier, which has a growing number of residents threatened by diabetes, is located in a food desert area, so once a week, a pop-up farm stand, sponsored by Baylor Scott and White, offers low-cost fresh fruits and vegetables. A nutritionist is also on hand to educate residents about developing healthful habits. As of July 31, 2015, 40 percent of the institute’s members who have diabetes have achieved optimal blood sugar levels and 67 percent have reached optimal blood pressure control.

-     Outside the Olympic village, on Ipanema Beach, the coolest sport in Brazil — footvolley — is being played. Footvolley is a hybrid sport — part volleyball, part soccer — that was born on Copacabana Beach more than 50 years ago when soccer players looking for the next challenge began juggling soccer balls over a net. With a soft playing surface and less ground to cover, there aren’t as many injuries and players can compete into their 40s and 50s. They can use any body part except their arms and hands to get the ball over the net. Following the Olympics, the footvolley world championships will be played in the beach volleyball arena. Twenty-three countries, including teams from the United States, Japan and Australia, are scheduled to take part in two-person and four-person tournaments. 

-     To encourage people to slow down, retired General Mills executive, Mark Addicks, launched the Minneapolis Good Chair Project, a nonprofit focused on the idea that you can make life better and build community by simply adding some comfortable seating. This summer, with approval from the Minneapolis Park Board, he placed 33 Good Chairs at Lake of the Isles and Currie Park that beckon folks to stop, sit, read, meet a friend, or perhaps even strike up a conversation with a stranger. Unlike city park benches that are bolted to the ground, Good Chairs, positioned in clusters of three or four, can be repositioned for conversation, light, shade or a better view of the lake. The chairs are custom-designed by Minneapolis furniture maker Willie Willette Works and are actually small benches that can accommodate two people. Addicks has largely funded this first phase of Good Chairs, but the chairs have been such a hit that the plan is to place more than 100 of them next year in more Minneapolis parks. 

-A few months ago, New York Gov. Andrew W. Cuomo unveiled a $42 million vision to remove the 2-mile section of the Robert Moses Parkway in the city of Niagara Falls to restore public access to the Niagara Gorge between Main Street and Findlay Drive. Groundbreaking for this project is scheduled to begin by the end of 2017 with an expected completion date of 2019 or 2020. In this, Phase 1 of the plan, Whirlpool Street from Main Street to Findlay would be rebuilt as a 30 mph road to accommodate the north-south traffic and potential future bus traffic. The restored section of the parkway will be turned into a pedestrian and bicycle trail network, linking to existing trails within the gorge and to adjoining city neighborhoods. Amenities and associated streetscapes are included in the plan to give visitors more to see and hikers and bikers more trails to explore.

-For the past year, Worcester, Massachusetts city officials have been working on a dog park feasibility study that would see changes to the city’s 20-year-old regulation that bars licensed dogs from city parks, beaches, playgrounds and schoolyards, even while on leashes. The consensus seems to be that the city’s 1997 animal-control ordinance no longer works in its best interests, so the recommendation is to modify Worcester's dog ordinance to allow dogs in public parks with clearly articulated policies and conditions. Several parks, along with cemeteries, athletic fields, public memorials, pools, school properties and beaches during the summer would remain off-limits to dogs. Officials hope to amend the ordinance by the end of the year and have already begun adding signage, waste bag dispensers and trash receptacles to the applicable parks and open space properties. The city’s master plan calls for the construction of at least five dog parks by June 30, 2019.