May 12, 2011 at 8:41 a.m.

State's pilot health project grabs hold in Chisago County bringing various groups together under common cause

State's pilot health project grabs hold in Chisago County bringing various groups together under common cause
State's pilot health project grabs hold in Chisago County bringing various groups together under common cause

Sometimes when lots of people are working towards a goal it's nice to bring everyone together to share ideas and call attention to what's working, or not working. The SHIP effort did just that at a breakfast event in Wyoming, hosted by St. Paul's Lutheran Church.

SHIP stands for statewide health improvement program. It was funded for two years under the last administration of Governor Pawlenty, but its funding status is undetermined at this point in the legislative process. If you talk to the active SHIP participants they'll argue for funding. Commented Joe Sausen, a longtime trail advocate, "You could build a (nice) trail for $1 million-- for the same amount of money being spent on healthcare for the obese." Sausen said the trail group's focus in this statewide health improvement effort was to provide connections of existing walk/bike segments and to promote the effort in general. The new website chisagocountytrails.org is getting its final touches.

SHIP's pilot project figured prominently in the community of Wyoming. It took off so well initially that now several additional Chisago County communities are involved. Represented at the breakfast were a city planner, park coordinators, public health nurses and a host of volunteers from organizations such as Chisago County Parks & Trails Foundation. All three county school districts were also involved in SHIP related activities.

SHIP was structured so that an area coordinator, Kari Mattson, could work with locals on issues affecting healthful lifestyles, issues that they identified. Anywhere that existing amenities such as bike trails and historic walking tours, could be enhanced they were.

The Women's Environmental Institute in Amador Township is already well known as a CSA farmsite to its metro shareholders. WEI received some funds to expand marketing of its produce to neighbors. A WEI representative reported at the breakfast that several new Chisago County residents have enrolled in the CSA, and sign-up continues until June 1.

(A CSA is part of the Community Supported Agriculture movement. Its "shareholders" receive regular fresh, produce crop distributions and also provide some form of manual labor on the farm.) See the WEI website or ads in local papers for information on the way it works.

Some other healthy outgrowth from SHIP organizing and funding here include:

~ The chiropractor in Wyoming is organizing a walking/running club. See the Brenda Pfeffer Clinic website to sign up. The running club is looking at a May 31 first outing.

~ Historical Society members saw an opportunity to develop historic town walking tour "loops." Wyoming has a brochure available and other towns are working on various similar efforts.

Neil Gatzow, of Wyoming, said he used a Marine-On-St. Croix pamphlet as inspiration for the Wyoming materials. "I always thought a walking tour was a wonderful idea but we never had resources to devote to it."

There are four walking tour loops throughout downtown Wyoming that highlight structures, locations and provide historic background.

Nate Sondrol, representing North Branch city hall at the breakfast, said the city is kicking-off its historic tour materials during MidSummer Days.

~ Schools used SHIP funds and resources to create interior walking programs (you can walk at Wyoming Elementary before and after school) and the school purchased stability balls for seating for students. They have incorporated vegetable gardens into after-school programs, they will provide kids with yoga and hip hop dance instruction to be active.

~ Cities like Wyoming, Shafer and Harris have gotten a boost from the SHIP effort in developing farmers markets and other outreach. Harris will be in the second year of its Sunday afternoon market. Grace Church in Wyoming is the site of the farmers' market.

The city of Shafer is providing summer rec programming at area city parks on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Larry Phillips from Taylors Falls said the city purchased GIS electronic files which will come in handy when designing walking/biking trails, etc. Taylors Falls also got signage for the riverwalk stretch.

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