Humboldt has edge on fitness



June 22, 2010 - 12:00 AM

HUMBOLDT — Humboldt citizens could toot their horns Monday night in recognition of a bevy of successes over the last two years, thanks in part to the city’s participation in Terry Woodbury’s Rebuilding the Public Square program.
Citizens touted Woodbury’s positive impact on their community on issues that improve quality of life. The Humboldt residents shared their good news at Monday’s Thrive Allen County Community Conversation at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church.
Eileen Robertson said Woodbury’s insistence that all conversations “be positive,” helped shape the direction of action.
Cliff Ralstin, publisher of the Humboldt Union, said Woodbury’s program “provided a good structure,” that brought various segments of the community together. For every issue, four key sectors of the community — government, business, education and health and human services — had to register their opinions.
“This brought more knowledge to the conversation,” Ralstin said.
Humboldt citizens also participate in city government, said Sunny Shreeve. “We’re not afraid to call our council members,” she said.
About 20-25 citizens regularly attend council meetings at 7 p.m. the second Monday of each month in Humboldt Public Library’s community room.
“If you really want positive change, then you come to a council meeting,” said Robertson.
Humboldt Mayor Bob Sharp’s opening ritual of welcoming the public to council meetings helps set a positive tone, commented council member Vada Aikins.
Through his tenure, Sharp has focused the town’s agenda on getting “adults and kids more physically fit,” said Larry Tucker, city administrator.
These quality-of-life issues “especially pertain to families,” Tucker said, hence the action to renovate the town’s swimming pool in 2008, expand and improve its parks and trail systems, establish a bike route around town, add outdoor exercise and playground equipment to Centennial Park and develop the River Park along the banks of the Neosho River.
Through its involvement as a PRIDE community, the city is participating in the Healthy Ecosystems, Healthy Community program that will develop a nature trail and outdoor classroom.
Many of the improvements included grants secured through Thrive Allen County.
Still on the horizon is hope for an extension of the Prairie Spirit Trail from Iola to Humboldt along the old railroad corridor. The current 52-mile trail goes from Ottawa to Iola, ending at Cofachique Park. Iola is expecting to hear “any day now,” said Thrive Executive Director David Toland, on whether it will receive a grant to fund the trail’s extension south to Riverside Park. The grant is from the Kansas Department of Transportation and would pay $400,000 for an asphalt trail along the west edge of town. Iola would be responsible for another $100,000 toward the trail’s construction.
Rural parts of the trail, including the extension to Humboldt, are made of less-expensive crushed rock over a compressed earthen base.
Experts from Sunflower Recreational Trails out of Lawrence are currently conducting a rail banking study of the corridor from Iola to Humboldt and expect to have it done by October, Toland said. From there, it’s hoped efforts can begin to extend the trail.
Humboldt citizens voiced their approval of the idea.
Aikins noted the town’s lack of suitable sidewalks and said the rail trail would meet local recreational walking needs.
Last year’s Bike Across Kansas included a stopover in Humboldt, which piqued citizens’ interest in the activity, said Tucker.

MARY ANN Arnott, Iola, briefed members about the activities of the Hospital Facilities Commission and their study of citizen response to Allen County Hospital.
Arnott said the “biggest hurdle” before county commissioners is the decision of whether to “finish business with HCA if they decide to leave” the for-profit format. As is, HCA leases the hospital from the county and reaps all hospital profits.
HCA could be retained to manage the hospital, she said.
Arnott said she has heard from “hundreds of citizens,” about their desires for the hospital. She estimated 95 percent favored action toward either a remodel of the 58-year-old hospital or to build anew.
Commissioners will weigh the recommendations of the Hospital Facilities Commission members as well as Hospital Facilities Group, a consulting firm from Wichita, in making a decision, Arnott said.

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