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Transcript of Episode 11: Healthy Community Corridor
with host David Richards [DR] and guests Broderick Crawford [BC] and Angel Obert [AO].
Listen to the audio.
Read the Light at the End of the Tunnel feature.

[DR] Hi Healthy Communities podcast listeners. The finalists of the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge have been announced! These next episodes are dedicated to them and their amazing stories. Our third episode in the series is on the Healthy Community Corridor project in Kansas City, Kansas, with Broderick Crawford, Executive Director of the NBC Community Development Corporation and Angel Obert, Recreation Manager for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County Parks & Recreation. Enjoy! 

[DR] Welcome to the Healthy Communities podcast; a public health-themed podcast that breaks down common health issues in our communities, and how Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge projects aim to address them. I am your host, David Richards from APHA. This is Episode 11: Healthy Community Corridor.

[Interview]

[BC] What does it mean to be a finalist? I think we were extremely humbled; we were excited. It was something that we quite honestly didn’t expect, but once we got the word, there was a lot of great energy and enthusiasm around us making the final cut.

[AO] To echo what Broderick said, we were really excited and humbled for our efforts to be recognized on a national level was pretty amazing for us for a community.

[DR] Do you want to talk about what your greatest achievements have been?

[BC] I don’t know if I would call any of them greatest like quote on quote greatest, but I think we are very proud of a couple of things. We are very proud of the level of collaboration that we have had. As you saw, we had a number of community organizations. We had civic, we had government, we had faith-based, we had neighborhood associations, so if there was a greatest achievement, the collaboration of all of those entities coming together to get work done. Then, when you look at the actual work, the work that we have been able to do in neighborhoods, in some instances, they have not had that significant of work in like 40 years, and so, to be able to see. There’s at least seven different parks that have had significant upgrades or improvements and the community is now responding to the work that’s being done through these collaborative efforts.

[AO] I think too, what Broderick said, our ability to work with the community has been amazing. Not just through this challenge, but it’s provided a lot of opportunities, past this challenge that have led to a lot of great projects for the community and for everyone to keep working together. 

[DR] Definitely. Let’s talk about that because built environment changes are very difficult and I don’t think people really understand the challenges to make those incremental changes. Do you want to talk about the specific upgrades or improvements that you’ve made in your parks?

[BC] Well, one of the significant upgrades is there is a tunnel is on a location called Jersey Creek, the Jersey Creek Park and Trail. That tunnel, about a quarter mile long, if you’re standing in the middle of that tunnel you cannot see the person standing on either end because the lighting in that tunnel has probably been out for 20 years or more. One of our significant accomplishments is that tunnel now has lights. It’s interesting because there was one time when our groups went to clean up that tunnel, there were kids from a Boys and Girls club very near that tunnel and the kids would be hollering saying “No, don’t go in; bad! Danger!” with the understanding that they’ve been taught not to go in to that tunnel because of the type of activities that were occurring. Now, since we’ve gone in and had a cleanup, we’ve had a 5K that goes through there every year and now we have lights in there. It’s just amazing when you drive by it. I get chills when I drive be it. We have lights in the tunnel!

[AO] I think too, what Broderick was also saying, with these projects and working together, we’ve really been able to bring awareness to some of these areas. I know from Parks and Recreation, it’s caused us to activate and engage with some of these parks more and bring more activity and opportunities for them to get everyone engaged.

[DR] I want to talk about why these initiatives are important. Why is it so important to be within a half mile of a green space or park?

[BC] I’ll start with unfortunately we have consistently been one of the worst counties as it relates to our health rankings since 2009. I would submit to you that a lot of the health that happens in our community happens outside of the hospital and clinic. It’s the social determinants that have a greater impact much more than seeing a physician or nurse. We felt that physical activity was an area that we could address, where we could have an impact. If we could get individuals to once again begin to use public spaces that were near where they lived, within a half mile of where they live, than that could increase or improve their health. There are studies that have been done that show that when you have a community or neighborhood that is talking to each other they are more healthy than when you don’t know your neighbor. We are promoting getting individuals out in their community out into public spaces so they can recreate with each other, and when you have that opportunity, it increases your rapport and trust. Not only does it make it more aesthetically pleasing, but also improves the health of the community.

[DR] To build on that, what you said in the beginning about what it means to be a finalist, the thing that I took away was the community groups started to talk to each other and it became a collaboration more than a competition. Do you want to talk about how the Challenge itself changed your position or outlook?

[BC] That’s one of the pieces that have made an impact. The opportunity for us to come together with groups that would normally not be working together. To bring Parks and Rec with neighborhood associations, with faith-based organizations, with civic organizations, all of them, and general residents. It really afforded us the opportunity to interact with folks that we knew that they were there, but there was not one true interaction, but now we have interaction and collaboration.

[AO] Being able to work with these organizations is really important for us, especially for Parks and Recreation as a municipality. A lot of these projects can’t happen without the support of neighborhood groups and faith-based organizations. Getting down to the grassroots and working with these groups and finding out what exactly they want and how we’re going to get there, that’s the most important thing that we took away with in this. We discovered new groups, even past this Challenge to continue to work toward achieving some of these goals that we have for this community.

[DR] To put Angel on the spot, let’s talk about some of those challenges that Parks and Recreation faced and how you overcame them.

[AO] I’d say about five years ago, 2012-2013, the Unified Government as a whole took a big hit. One of the departments that took the biggest hit as far as budget cuts would be Parks and Rec. It’s like for most Municipalities, the first thing that is going to be cut, it normally Parks and Rec. Our department has really struggled to maintain these park facilities and amenities. But not only that, but to bring new opportunities to the community. It’s been really important over the last five years to work with these groups and what we’re seeing are these improvements and success pay off. The Unified Government and Parks and Recreation, we hope that it could be funded better, but it’s really pushed us to go for outside resources, for example the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge, it’s what drove the initial application. The community has this big need for Parks and Recreation and they want to see certain programs and amenities, so we had to work with the community on this.

[BC] What’s interesting as Angel mentioned that, we’ve had multiple surveys and community conversations, one has been done by the mayor, one by researchers, in all of them, when the community responds in the top three is Parks and Rec. To see the community want to see improvements in Parks and Rec and trails and sidewalks, and things like that, but yet not having the budget to support that can be disappointing and frustrating. And so having an opportunity like this, and as a person of the community, I remember being in a budget meeting a pleading against the Parks and Rec budget get slashed, it’s like, “Hold on, wait a minute. Why are we cutting the very thing, the very lifeline that will help us create spaces for people to be more active, more healthy, and therefore decrease crime?” What came to mind is the fact that you can drive down one of our major streets, and see a mural that was done by youth in our community that this project help to fund is just amazing, and to have the kids share why they did the mural the way that they did it is absolutely phenomenal. And because the kids did it, there will not be graffiti on that building because the kids in that neighborhood won’t allow for it to happen. It’s those type of projects that really endear themselves to our community.

[DR] That’s all really great. I have one last question for you two, what’s the future of the program? What’s the future of the Healthy Community Corridor?

[BC] This project will continue. We have three other groups that are doing work, we have of course the Jersey Creek renovation and expansion team, we have the physical activity team focusing on health for all, and we have the infrastructure action team of the Healthy Communities Wyandotte. We have three groups that are specifically created to continue to look at developing, not just our corridor, but parks, trails, and sidewalks in general for the entire community.       

[Closing]

[DR] That’s the show this week! Thank you to my guests Broderick Crawford and Angel Obert, and thank you all for listening. Links to more resources can be found on the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge website at healthiestcities.org under about the challenge, podcast. I’ll see you next time.