Published DateLACONIA — A community garden and bicycle-friendly streets and sidewalks are among the many suggested improvements that will be considered as part of the Wyatt Park-South End Community Revitalization Project.
The ideas were among those discussed by about 20 residents of the area, many of them young people, who took part in a community meeting held at the Woodland Heights Elementary School last night.
Amy Lovisek, assistant director of the Laconia Parks and Recreation Department, said that the meeting, which was structured in a small group format with five facilitators from Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) NH, was productive and that she was especially pleased to see a real mix of people from the community present, including business owners and young people.
The Wyatt Park-South End Community Revitalization Project is part of Lakes Region HEAL. Laconia is one of four municipalities that last year received a two-year grant from Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) NH, one of New Hampshire's leading organizations supporting healthy community initiatives. The two-year grant provides about $10,000 in funds and over $60,000 of training and technical assistance according Lovisek.
''What we're looking for are ways to encourage healthy eating and an active lifestyle,'' says Lovisek, adding that HEAL's major goal is to reduce chronic disease issues through healthier foods like fruits and vegetables and removing barriers to physical activity.
''Healthy choices should be as convenient as convenience foods so that people have the opportunities to make the right choices,'' said Lovisek.
Mayor Mike Seymour dropped by the meeting and praised the work that has been done so far in the Wyatt Park neighborhood in recent months, including the formation of a Wyatt Park Community Association. Members of the association worked with the Laconia Police Department to deal with issues surrounding the use of the basketball courts at Wyatt Park and late night disturbances and vandalism,
Some of the area's assets got high marks, including Vista Foods, which was praised for the quality of its meats, as well as the Laconia Winter Farmer's Market at Skate Escape. Access to the nearby WOW Trail in downtown Laconia, which will be improved once the second phase from the Laconia Railroad station to the Belmont town line is completed, was also seen as an asset.
One woman said a community garden would make access to fresh vegetables ''affordable and convenient'' and one suggestion called for convenience stores in the area to provide more healthy eating options. Another called for a frozen yogurt stand in the area.
Young people said that they would like to have a longer lunch break at school as they don't have time to finish their meal and that they would also like to see a snack break re-instituted with a variety of healthy snacks available.
Lovisek said a complete report on the meeting and all of the options and ideas discussed will be e-mailed to participants and that four of the highest ranking projects in each the healthy living and active lifestyle categories will be brought before the next community meeting for further discussion.