City to host Open Streets event

Published 7:22 am Sunday, May 20, 2012

The city of Albert Lea, in collaboration with the National Vitality Center and other partners, is organizing an event aimed at connecting the community.

Called Open Streets Albert Lea, the event calls for closing Fountain Street from Washington Avenue to Bridge Avenue, and Bridge Avenue from Fountain Street to Marshall Street, on June 2. There will be activities taking place at various stations around Fountain Lake.

“The whole thing is meant to connect the community and for all of us to get out and see our community in a different way,” said 3rd Ward Councilor Ellen Kehr, one of the organizers.

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During open streets events, a street is temporarily closed to vehicle traffic to allow families and neighbors to come together for an afternoon to mingle, have fun and shop in a safe, car-free environment. The main goal is to encourage residents, including people who are not regularly active, to experience their community in a new way — by foot or some other form of nonmotorized transportation.

On the same day will be the dedication of the Blue Zones Walkway and the kickoff of the walking moai program — now called Moais in Motion.

Blue Zones founder Dan Buettner will be in attendance.

City Manager Chad Adams said the open streets event, funded by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, complements many of the principles adopted by the city and National Vitality Center leadership team following the AARP/Blue Zones Vitality Project. These principles include social interaction and encouraging active and healthy lifestyles and use nonmotorized transportation.

“We are pleased to welcome the community to join us for this ‘day of play,’” Adams said.

The open streets project is part of a long-term statewide health improvement initiative through Blue Cross to reduce obesity by tackling its root causes, physical inactivity and unhealthy eating. There are nine open streets projects taking place around the state.

Organizers are inviting people of all ages to walk, bike, socialize and play out in the middle of those two streets.

The Blue Zones Walkway dedication will be at 11 a.m. at the Fountain Lake Park Gazebo. Organizers said they hope to put Buettner’s feet in concrete to place at one point of the walkway.

Immediately following the walkway dedication will be the kickoff of the Moais in Motion program.

The program will incorporate any kind of physical activity, not just walking, and will be based on time spent doing that activity. People can sign up for a moai that day if they do not have one.

Everyone in a moai will get a free T-shirt, and people who walk around Fountain Lake — but who are not participating in a moai — can get a reduced-price T-shirt.

There will also be signs set up around the lake explaining the “Power 9,” or nine things people can do to live longer, healthier lives. Activities will also be set up at Lakeview Park, the boathouse and City Beach to allow people to try out archery, canoeing, disc golf and kayaking, among others.

“Our state’s overweight and obesity rates are at dangerous levels, and getting active is one of the best ways to combat this problem,” said Dr. Marc Manley, chief prevention officer for Blue Cross, in a news release. “The great thing about open streets events is that everyone can participate. At past events people have dusted off bicycles that they hadn’t used in years and rediscovered how fun and easy it is to be active and see their community from a new perspective. It’s a great way to get started on a path to better health.”

Kehr encouraged people to make one new friend during the event.

National Vitality Center Leadership Team Chairman Randy Kehr said he thinks it speaks well to the community that Blue Cross through its grant has recognized what the community has done in terms of vitality.