Greater Garrett Initiative
Article by Sue Carpenter | KPC News | March 27, 2019
GARRETT — The five-member Greater Garrett Initiative was introduced during Mayor Todd Fiandt’s recent State of the City address at the JAM Center. About 75 residents and community leaders attended the event.
The initiative team includes Sarah Payne from DeKalb Health; Tina Woodridge, JAM Center director of adolescent well-being; Garrett Public Library Executive Director Nick Stephan; Brian Best, director of DeKalb Community Growth Network at Ambassador Enterprises; and Garrett- Keyser-Butler school board member Larry Getts. Each spoke briefly about the various components of the initiative.
The team came together at the nudging of Deb Pontecorvo from the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Services, according to Payne. Their goal is to explore health and wellness in DeKalb County. As part of the project, comprehensive interviews, surveys and in-depth conversations were held to find where needs and opportunities might be in the community.
“All of us have been here since the beginning to see these ideas form into action,” Wooldridge told the gathering, “but as with any initiative, we can’t do it all ourselves. So we brainstormed a potential list of collaborators.”
She asked audience members to consider their individual strengths, talents and expertise. For example, Wooldridge said, the original logo created for Greater Garrett was tweaked by a student at Garrett High School to better identify the mission of the group. Volunteer signup sheets were available for various tasks.
Through the survey and interviewing process, Stephan said, the group found three areas in which they thought Garrett was ready and needed to act upon, noting the primary one is improving access for biking and using designated bike lanes in the city, along with safe walking access.
Getts told the audience the team has several strategies it wants to pursue, with No. 1 being grantwriting to sustain the group’s goals.
“There are all kinds of quality-of-life grants out there available for local communities,” Getts noted.
Getts said he specifically wants the city to pursue a grant for the trails initiative.
“That is going to be one of our main focuses — at the very least one connecting Garrett and Auburn,” he added.
Other areas include safe bike pathways to the city parks, schools, the pool and library and to the JAM Center, “so our kids can at least travel safely to these areas.”
Getts also mentioned crosswalks painted with colorful graphics in the downtown area and near the school and the JAM Center. Upgraded infrastructure would include bike racks and drinking fountains. Getts said a goal is to engage students through the high school’s Career Development Program to design the bike racks. He referred to the youth as an untapped resource that would provide them with a vested interest in the community as they grow older.
Social media is also important, Getts continued, mentioning a Garrett Happenings page recently opened on Facebook. He also noted Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram can help share the good news in town, along with the local newspaper.
A progressive park tour is planned in the summer with various activities, but people must walk or bike to the locations, Getts said. He also mentioned a wellness tracker system that could be implemented to help with community wellness.
Brian Best mentioned how the many proposed projects interweave to improve the quality of life in Garrett. He stressed the most important factor is making changes, at first temporary, to establish healthy habits.
He suggested riding a bike to work, maybe only once a month at first, or walking or biking to city parks.
Best asked the audience to “remind yourself to do one thing,” and implement a healthy habit to effect a healthy community.
“Be inspired. Healthy habits create a Greater Garrett,” he said.