The Hoosier Health and Wellness Alliance (HHWA) in partnership with the Indiana Division of Natural Resources (IDNR), the Indiana Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity (DNPA), and the Indiana Parks and Recreation Association (IPRA) have been working to establish and develop county/city parks boards across the state of Indiana. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that time spent outdoors is linked to physical and mental health benefits. Some of these include lower rates of heart disease, stroke, obesity, stress, and depression; making accessibility to outdoor space especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recently, this project has taken off in Putnam County and community members are celebrating what’s to come.
This vision began when Antonia Sawyer, Coalition Lead for HHWA, connected with Mindy Duckett, HHWA Member and Purdue Extension Community Wellness Coordinator, to see if any of the counties she works in would be interested in working with HHWA to expand their Parks Board efforts. Mindy then reached out to Eric Freeman, director of the Putnam County Convention & Visitors Bureau and a community leader in Putnam County, when she discovered the county was expanding on its People Pathways initiative. Putnam County has more land in protected nature preserves than any county in Indiana; meaning it is rich with natural resources to leverage for outdoor recreation. The 18-mile trail system, named People Pathways, spans the county; and community leaders see opportunities to do more for the people of Putnam. The county has a lot of potential in its ability to develop new trail systems and parks by leveraging its vast land resources. Community leaders also plan to develop blue ways, or water trails, that use the county’s expansive and beautiful creek system. As the HHWA Parks Board working group began to break down where they would focus their efforts, the potential in Putnam County shown through and their work took off from there.
Currently, Putnam County is drafting a five-year Master County Park Plan to send to the IDNR so it can partner more closely with the state agency and further mutual goals. The county is hosting Purdue Extension’s Enhancing the Value of Public Spaces workshops to the Putnam County community in October. The workshops will be held virtually on Tuesday, October 5, 2021 from 6:00-8:00pm and in person on Thursday, October 7, 2021 from 10:00am-12:00pm or 6:00-8:00pm. To register, visit this link.
The Putnam County Park Board was just formed, and it was greeted by a collaborative team including Putnam Parks & Pathways, Friends of the Park of Putnam County, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, Purdue Extension Educators, Local Government, and the Hoosier Health & Wellness Alliance.
Mindy stated that it is her goal that this initiative will be, “The beginning of the whole community becoming bike and pedestrian-friendly so that people have that opportunity for active transportation as well as recreation.” She also expressed her hope that these trails will open opportunities for those who don’t have access to cars and public transportation by connecting the walking and biking trails in the community.
Putnam County has some amazing dreams for its communities, and this can be summed up by what Eric Freeman described to be the overall goals of the Parks Board: “Increasing quality of life for Putnam County residents is the #1 goal. There is a second goal that fits hand-in-glove with that, and it’s leveraging outdoor recreation for the county’s economic development”. We truly feel that they will be successful in achieving this and are so excited to continue to join in on their efforts
The HHWA is part of the Connections IN Health project, which is comprised of a team of experts focused on some of Indiana’s most chronic conditions, including obesity, asthma, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Please reach out to Antonia Sawyer, Lead of the Hoosier Health and Wellness Alliance at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on the HHWA or to join the parks board development efforts.