New projects to help us get fit
There will soon come a time when you’ll be able to travel from Siegen Lane to Bluebonnet Boulevard without wading through heavy traffic. And you’ll be improving your fitness at the same time. If all goes according to plan, the first phase of a new walking/biking trail between the two busy thoroughfares could open next April, says BREC landscape architect Ted Jack.
The final funding piece for BREC’s Capital Area Pathways Project, a four-mile park trail stretching from Siegen to Bluebonnet along Dawson and Wards creeks, came together recently with a grant from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation. In addition to its Pathways Project, the foundation grant also is partially funding BREC’s new mobile recreation program, which will on a regular basis bring games, sports equipment and crafts for children to 14 East Baton Rouge Family Housing Authority properties that don’t have playgrounds.
Another project, Fresh Beginnings, aimed at helping areas of the city with limited access to supermarkets and fresh-food outlets also is getting underway with the help of a BCBS Foundation grant.
The local programs are among 12 in the state that received funds through the new Challenge for a Healthier Louisiana grant program started by the foundation with a goal of reducing obesity rates in the state. A total of $10.2 million in grants have been awarded, sparking $16.8 million in matching funds, according to the foundation.
The Capital Area Pathways Project and Mobile Playground is a collaborative project of local nonprofits and government agencies lead by the BREC Foundation, which supports the Recreation and Parks Commission. The duel project is slated to get $2.2 million from the Challenge grant, which includes a $1 million grant from the BCBS Foundation. The funding has been matched by $1.2 million from local organizations.
Construction on the new trail, which is pending final approvals from the state and federal highway departments, could get started as soon as November, says BREC’s Jack.
“We’ll do it in sections. The first two pieces we hope to bid together, and that would be about a 2½-mile section,” he says.
People will be able to get on the trail at different spots, including one at the Mall of Louisiana probably near Dick’s Sporting Goods, Jack says.
“This will be the first trail like this in East Baton Rouge,” says Jack. “It will go by schools and stores, and people will be able to interact with it really well. Some people are going to be able to use it for transportation. If they have to go from Siegen to Bluebonnet, they’ll be able to get on their bike or jog or walk to work. It’s going to be faster than when the streets are full.”
Fresh Beginnings is a collaborative project of local nonprofits and government agencies lead by the Mayor’s Healthy City Initiative. It’s getting nearly $2.3 million from the Challenge grant, which includes a $1 million grant from the BCBS Foundation to be matched by $1.27 million from other local organizations over the next three years.
Fresh Beginnings will use the money to improve three areas in North Baton Rouge — zip codes 70805, 70807 and part of 70802. More than 61,000 resident live in those areas, and 81 percent have limited access to supermarkets and outlets for fresh food. The program will help people learn about healthy living in several ways:
- Four elementary schools will offer a comprehensive curriculum on nutrition, physical fitness and self-esteem.
- Eight pop-up mobile farmers markets and four healthy corner stores, selling fresh foods, will be introduced into the neighborhoods.
- A Food Desert Policy Commission, which will make recommendations on how to address the causes behind a lack of grocery options, will also be formed.
For more information, visit www.ourhomelouisiana.org.