The weight of the city

Published July 5, 2014
Our nation is in grave danger, and it comes from within. It’s neither a terrorist group nor a drug gang that assaults us, but this menace portends ill tidings for our future unless we can reverse its hold on our culture.
The 2012 HBO series “The Weight of the Nation” predicted that the mounting health costs of obesity-induced illnesses threaten to undermine our economy and our national well-being as a growing number of us are growing in size as processed foods and excessive electronic entertainment threaten to turn us into the cart-riding obese characters in the movie “Wall-E.” We must act now, and we can’t wait for the federal government to fix it for us. Such major change in thought, behavior and culture requires a dedicated effort coordinated by individuals, local government, schools, health organizations and grassroots groups. Here are some of my ideas for Alliance, and I understand that they are not necessarily practical or possible in full, but I want to initiate discussions on theses subjects.
Walk with the mayor: Alliance Mayor Alan Andreani led walks a few years back, but the program seemed to be short-lived if I remember correctly. I would like to see those walks resume. It may be that few people attended, but even if that was the case it’s a good idea and well worth revisiting. Nashville Mayor Karl Dean in May launched Walk 100 Miles with Nashville, a follow-up to Walk 100 Miles With the Mayor. We should follow suit and follow the suit who leads the city. Members of the Alliance Historical Society and the Alliance Area Preservation Society could lead walks with historical and architectural themes, but it is most important that walkers move briskly and get aerobic workouts.
A greenway connection from Mount Union to downtown. The city of Kent recently completed the KSU Gateway that connects the university to the business district, and I am glad to see that Alliance is working on a similar idea, as detailed in Laurie Huffman’s “Going Green” article in The Review on June 24. The plan is more ambitious than merely connecting the University of Mount Union and downtown Alliance, the proposed path also spanning the city east and west, and the trail would connect two Stark Parks trails, the Iron Horse Trail off of West Beech Street in Washington Township and the Mahoning Valley Trail starting off Gaskill Drive east of Union Avenue and traveling north in Lexington Township. (See starkparks.com.)
Return of Fuel-less Fridays: This program also seemed to disappear. It’s always good to encourage people to use their own power for transportation, and we should keep promoting Fuel-Less Fridays. Perhaps Alliance Area Development could entice a bicycle sales and rental business to set up shop in Alliance, with at least the rental aspect of the enterprise operating alongside the walking and biking trail.
East Main Street Plaza: In conjunction with the growing downtown arts district, East Main Street could be converted to a pedestrian mall as was done decades ago in Cuyahoga Falls. Access to business could be provided on Market and Prospect streets, and such a plaza could host gatherings, lectures on health and wellness, musical performances, performance artists, vendors selling healthful foods, and more.
Community education: Aultman Hospital in the western half of Stark County offers monthly lectures on health topics. We could use the same in Alliance, with doctors, nurses, nutritionists, dietitians, exercise experts, educators, Farmers’ Market vendors, members of Green Alliance (http://www.greenallianceohio.org/), and representatives from Stark Parks, ODNR and our nature centers giving talks. We could choose a One Book One Community selection that deals with a topic such as obesity, physical fitness or community wellness. Businesses could sponsor wellness and education programs for employees because in the long run the benefits outweigh the initial costs.
We, as individuals, must educate ourselves on food, diet, fitness and the risks of obesity. Rodman Public Library has “The Weight of the Nation” in DVD and book format, and I encourage you to watch or read it and to learn all you can about food, fitness and health. Buy it, borrow it or rent it — it is worth the time and expense because our future as individuals and a nation is in peril.

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