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Group Works on Downtown Enhancement



By Bob Hansen –

Three different areas of emphasis are being developed into a comprehensive plan to help make central Connersville a place where healthier choices are easier to make.

A group of people who started working last spring on a process called Enhancing the Value of Public Spaces – Creating Healthy Communities had a wrap-up meeting with consultants from the Purdue Extension, who traveled from West Lafayette at the invitation of Becky Marvel, the Extension Service’s local community wellness coordinator.

Having decided to work on three areas of emphasis, the group will continue to function under the direction of Discover Connersville, the downtown development organization. Working groups that have met to outline goals include Active Living Environments, Healthy Food Environments and Placemaking.

“The process you have gone through doesn’t end now,” Kara Salazer, an Extension sustainable communities specialist told them.

Some of the ideas explored by each group are listed below. They are all on spreadsheets that also outline action steps that should be taken to accomplish the tasks.

Active living: Develop relatioinships with owners of vacant land; connect bike and walking trails downtown; bike racks; implementation of a clean-up calendar; outdoor eating spaces; an adopt-a-block program.

Healthy eating: Map all local food resources; be able to provide emergency food; encouraging Dollar General to have a fresh food section; provide healthy food stickers to identify healthier options at downtown restaurants; educational meetings to promote food awareness.

Placemaking: Create and city/county calendar; monthly and weekly events and development of a communications team; and goals for outdoor spaces such as creating a land acquisition process, co-op shared spaces, develop an E-Sports arena; create a recovery community; create a drug-free/tobacco-free zone; enhance public transportation.

Groups will continue working toward on those projects. Quarterly update meetings are envisioned by Discover Connersville president Carolyn Bunzendahl. Fayette County Community Voices will be involved as a partner.

One of the challenges will be maintaining the interest of those who started the process, said Lee Ann Robinson, president of Community Voices. About 75 people came to the first meeting six months ago. About 20 attended Wednesday; many absent because of work commitments.

“We need to have a group of people who will stick with it,” Robinson said.

Marvel, who organized the local meetings, will continue to serve as a local point person. The consultants from West Lafayette said they will be available to help in whatever ways they are asked.

The team from Purdue will be using the experience here to help other communities in Indiana by developing a curriculum that can be adapted in other places, Lisa Graves, assistant program director for Purdue Extension in the College of Health and Human Services, said.

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