Increasing poverty has sapped the health of residents, including the children who live in this largely White and African-American city of less than 20,000. Milledgeville is the seat of rural Baldwin County, which occupies the geographic center of the state, and childhood obesity is rampant in both city and county. The Center for Health and Social Issues at Georgia College & State University (GCSU) aims to change the downward health spiral with a project funded through Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities (HKHC). The Center is leading a partnership that intends to turn Milledgeville and Baldwin County into a place where children and adults can easily bike, walk and find affordable, nutritious food. The project’s name is also its goal: Live Healthy Baldwin.
The county has made progress in recent years in adding trails and sports fields to established recreation areas. In Milledgeville, there is growing interest in renovating the downtown streetscape with farmers’ markets, and amenities for bicyclists and pedestrians. Yet the rural and built environments in Milledgeville have presented some sizeable challenges. The city has no public transportation, and six of its seven schools are clustered together on one campus and cut off from residential areas by a trio of busy highways. Many children simply can’t walk or bike to school safely. The HKHC partners in Milledgeville have worked to circumvent the problem via a nine-mile bicycle/pedestrian trail that will travel east to west, running underneath the high-speed roadways and connecting neighborhoods to the schools.
“One of our major goals under the HKHC project is to establish that trail along Fishing Creek, then we’ll have an ‘underground’ path that kids can use to get safely to school,’” said Project Director Jim Lidstone. “A second goal of Live Healthy Baldwin has been to boost access to healthy food in low-income neighborhoods.”
Important participants in Live Healthy Baldwin are the Bicycling Club of Milledgeville, the Oconee River Greenway Authority and Foundation, the Milledgeville Community Garden Association, the Baldwin County Schools, Milledgeville/Baldwin County Chamber of Commerce, as well as Milledgeville City Council, and the Baldwin County Commission. It is evident that they and other partners know how to effectively tap the city’s assets, which include strong local support, to build and sustain the HKHC project’s vision.
Completed 1.5 miles of looped trails as part of Phase I of the Fishing Creek Community Trail.