HEAL SPotlight: the Town of Bluefield, Virginia
Bluefield, Virginia, has been working to implement health and wellness policies and practices to improve community health and reduce rates of unhealthy weights since the passage of their HEAL resolution in 2015. Within a year of joining the HEAL Cities and Towns Campaign, Bluefield received Bronze recognition for passing a policy to ensure water is freely available at all municipally-owned buildings. The Town has continued to address its wellness goals by building a new exercise trail around an existing park. This “FIT Trail" will eventually expand to include 10 fitness stations around the park where people of all abilities can use equipment to exercise. “The whole idea is to give parents or guardians a nice place to also exercise while their children are using the baseball fields, playground equipment, or soccer field,” commented Billie Roberts, Town Administrator. Initially the Town hoped to secure outside funding to develop the trail. When they were unable, they made a commitment to move forward regardless and began implementing expansion plans using funding from the municipal budget. This commitment illustrates the Town’s enthusiasm and dedication to prioritizing health and wellness. Bluefield has now successfully paved half the 1.5-mile trail, and is currently seeking funding to expand the trail and build fitness stations around the park.
To encourage municipal employees be more active, Bluefield has established a partnership with the nearby town of Bluefield, West Virginia. The two towns hold an annual 5-K run from one Bluefield to the other. The Town incentivizes employees to participate in the run by compensating them for the hours they use to complete the run and participate in the event.
The Parks and Recreation Department and local Lions Club have partnered to support the HEAL initiative through a community garden. “Our community garden is done with straw bales and is set up so It doesn’t hurt your back. We provide water, most of the tools, really anything they need to garden, we as a municipality provide,” commented Ms. Roberts. The success of this project has inspired Ms. Roberts to begin thinking about future opportunities to establish new partnerships and youth activities. “It would be nice to connect with the local schools and do a program where the children have a garden and grow fresh vegetables,” she said.
While many of its programs are still in the initial planning phase, Bluefield hopes to begin new efforts raise community awareness of their Campaign and build additional opportunities to help residents lead healthy and active lives. Bluefield is eager to see its HEAL Campaign move to new levels and expand existing programs to meet the needs of the community - the HEAL Campaign is looking forward to seeing what the Town accomplishes next!