The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

April 2, 2013

Our View: Walk it off

The Joplin Globe

— Sure, we all know that more walking and less driving would be better for our health. That, in turn, would keep some of us from having to go to the doctor to be treated for high cholesterol, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

Some studies have even shown that a daily 30-minute walk helps fight off Alzheimer’s disease.

But comparing a pedestrian’s traveling ease with the health of a local economy is rarely discussed in economic summits.

Until now.

Mark Fenton, the former editor at large of Walking magazine and the former host of the PBS television series “America’s Walking,” was in Crawford County, Kan., last week to conduct a health audit of Pittsburg and Girard.

“Spending money on sidewalks so children can walk to school means districts can save huge dollars on busing. Having access to hiking and biking trails, which are connector routes between schools, stores, neighborhoods and parks, keeps young families from moving away and could even attract families to the area, which in turn improves the business climate,” he said in talking with Kansas officials.

He cites a study by the National Association of Realtors that found that communities whose housing markets held up well during the recent economic downturn were those that had connective routes linking neighborhoods, parks, schools and recreation areas.

Let’s just imagine a Range Line Road with sidewalks. Now, instead of pulling off and onto the busy trafficway, a shopper with a few errands could do all that on foot. Makes the idea of exploring Range Line stores seem a lot more consumer-friendly.

Joplin has an opportunity now to make some of the changes that Fenton is talking about in neighborhoods that are being rebuilt following the 2011 tornado. Builders and businesses should work with the city to see that sidewalks are part of the infrastructure.

Fenton said that type of city planning will ensure a healthier future for our children. It might also play a role in the health of the economy our children work in.