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Taking big strides in Rapid City

Keeping the momentum going

Rapid City, South Dakota, has a goal — to be the healthiest community in the country. It's been making strides in this direction for years. In 2018, Rapid City was recognized for its efforts when it received the inaugural Healthy HometownSM Powered by Wellmark Opens New Window Community Award.

Rapid City's goals haven’t changed in 2019. “We had so many projects in the mix this year, we really just wanted to keep the momentum going,” says Deanna Becket, co-facilitator of the Live Well Black Hills Coalition.

Unsurprisingly, the city is on a winning streak. In fact, in 2019, Rapid City became the first community in South Dakota to receive a second Healthy HometownSM Powered by Wellmark Community Award. Many of its programs this year revolved around helping residents move more. Two projects in particular supported biking for two-wheeled commuters, errand runners and leisure riders.

Shaping up streets and sidewalks

First on the agenda was widening sidewalks. Every community needs sidewalks, and many fall into bad shape or never see completion. Finishing the sidewalks coincided with a remodel of an entire street.

Rapid City street improvements

Equally important in a city is the need for bike lanes. “The current system had so many gaps,” says Kip Harrington, the city planner who worked on the project. “Overall, we really needed to provide more opportunities for non-motorized transportation and recreation.”

The bike lanes built in early 2019 were in parts of town that were not bike-friendly, according to Harrington, who has received positive feedback from residents.

Supporting bikers with racks and repair stations

When bikes are laying around parks and other public places, it’s a signal that heavy-duty bike racks are needed. Not only do bike racks provide a place for people to properly store and secure their bikes, they also provide encouragement for people who are considering biking.

Becket talked with community leaders and the Parks and Recreation Department of Rapid City to find locations where people could use them most. “We wanted them in places where people could also access healthy foods,” says Becket. They settled on three locations — one at a farmers' market, another at a food cooperative and the third in a park.

At the park location, Rapid City also installed an additional bicycle repair station, which allows a bike to be mounted. It provides tools and an air pump for changing low tubes or pumping up tires.

“We know biking equipment is heavily used and appreciated,” says Becket. “We felt this was a good use of our Healthy Hometown award money from last year.”

What’s next for Rapid City?

“Our plates are full,” says Becket, who knows of several big plans for the city taking place in 2020.

Currently, there are more sidewalks being developed in high-use areas, such as schools. A new walking path is being developed in the northern part of the city. There are also plans for more mobile food pantries and expanding those to schools. In southeast Rapid City, a new community garden and frisbee golf course are in the works.

“We are constantly visiting with community members about what’s going on, what we’re doing, and how we can serve them better," says Becket. "It’s really important to be present at events taking place in the community, and create forums for residents to talk to the people making the decisions.”

When it comes to getting involved with Healthy Hometown, Becket says, “What are communities waiting for? Gather passionate residents and leaders. Form groups of people who are willing to put in the effort. Just get going.”

Want to make your community healthier?

Learn how Healthy Hometown can provide expert assistance to help your community eat well, move more and feel better. Check out Healthy Hometown online Opens New Window or email Send Email for more information.