GUTHRIE — Courtney Thompson didn't know when she moved to Guthrie two years ago that she would find a community hyper-focused on its residents' well being.
As the nutrition and fitness coordinator at the Logan County Health Department, Thompson has seen Guthrie thrive, with its leaders continuing to implement changes that promote a healthy lifestyle among its residents.
For example, the Guthrie Community Garden has only been in existence for a few growing seasons, but it's already producing pounds and pounds of produce each week — half of which it donates to a local food bank.
The community garden is one example of the efforts that Guthrie officials are making to improve residents' health, and thus improve the community's quality of life.
“(The garden) was an easy sale from the city point — nobody told us no through any of it,” Thompson said. “The city loved the idea of it, so they were a major supporter of why it happened.”
Oklahoma, as a state, has long struggled with health problems among its residents, with high rates of diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
Guthrie officials are optimistic that they can help turn some of those statistics in their community around.
Research shows that a person's environment can play a role in physical activity.
A study recently published in the CDC's Preventing Chronic Disease journal looked at Mueller, a community 3 miles from downtown Austin, Texas, that has 140 acres of parks and 13 miles of hiking and biking paths and lanes.
The researchers' data suggests that moving to an activity friendly neighborhood can positively affect physical activity levels, particularly among residents who had previously been least active.
For example, when people moved to Mueller, the researchers noticed substantial increases in recreational walking inside the neighborhood.
In recent years, Guthrie leaders have installed more sidewalks and are working to implement more bike lanes.
Thanks to a grant from the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, the city will soon install bike racks around town.
Rene Spineto is among those leading the charge for the city to add sidewalks, bike lanes and other means to be active.
Spineto said Guthrie's city council passed a resolution to use a “Complete Streets” model for its existing and new streets.
Under that model, any construction projects are asked to incorporate broad sidewalks, bike paths and places for people to stop and rest.
The term “Complete Streets” means that a city's streets are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities, according to Smart Growth America, a nationwide neighborhood initiative.
“What we're trying to do is get people out of their houses, to get people out of their cars, and to move their bodies,” Spineto said. “Great downtowns are all about having places where people can bump into each other. You get people interacting with one another, and then ideas grow.”
Data show that Logan County residents are happy with where they live. The state Health Department, in its most recent statewide report, noted that perceived quality of life among Logan County adults was relatively positive, with adults experiencing the second-fewest limited activity days and seventh-fewest poor physical health days.
“Their perceptions of their health ranked ninth-highest in the state,” the report states.
Like most other counties, Logan County's residents do not eat enough fruits and vegetables. About 30 percent of residents smoke, and about 30 percent are obese.
The county, though, does have low rates of diabetes, Alzheimer's, kidney disease and suicide. And Logan County's incidence of cancer was ninth-lowest in the state.
The effort to make Guthrie have a livable and walkable downtown began in the 1970s, said Justin Fortney, the public information officer for Logan, Lincoln, Kingfisher and Blaine counties.
Downtown Guthrie is one of the largest contiguous historic districts in the U.S., he said.
The city is home to more than 2,000 buildings within the Guthrie Historic District, covering 1,400 acres, according to the Guthrie Chamber of Commerce.
Fortney bikes to work and is hoping to get more people doing the same.
He is organizing a monthly community bike ride and also a community block party on Aug. 2.
“People in the '70s and '80s worked insanely hard to preserve what Guthrie was, where a lot of communities let that dis-appear decades ago, and Guthrie had the foresight to keep that,” he said.
(The garden) was an easy sale from the city point — nobody told us no through any of it. The city loved the idea of it, so they were a major supporter of why it happened.”
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