New Mayor, New Energy for Building a Healthier Compton

Posted 09/27/13 by Rayna Gordon-Hellman in Policy

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From blazing the way for the nation's first rail-trails back in the 1980s, to the frontlines today of urban regeneration and battling the nation's biggest public health challenges, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has come a long way in a couple of decades.

Nowhere is the relevance and importance of this urban work better illustrated than in Compton, the city in south Los Angeles that has received far more attention for the bad rather than the good in recent years. But we see great things happening in south L.A., and continue to work with our local partners there so trails, biking and walking can contribute to the city's effort to rebound.

So we are super excited by the interest that new Mayor of Compton, Aja Brown, has already shown in supporting our goal of getting more young residents biking and walking to school. As an urban planner, Mayor Brown is conscious of how the built environment can either prevent or encourage healthy activity, like walking and biking for regular transportation.

On October 9, Mayor Brown will join students from schools in South L.A. for International Walk to School Day, an event that RTC's Western Region Office has helped organize to get local kids using the Compton Creek Bike Path and increasing the amount of physical activity they get each day.

It's no small problem here in Compton, where there is less than one acre of open space per 1,000 residents, less than 10 percent of the national recommendation. This means that children have few places to burn off all that youthful exuberance, to be active and healthy, and to buck the trend toward inactivity and obesity that is devastating communities across the country. That's why we see the Compton Creek Bike Path as being such an important element.

It was great to see the Compton Unified School District throw their support behind our effort, too. Earlier this month it passed a resolution supporting "efforts to make the community a better place to walk to school in the interest of creating the healthiest and safest school and community environments," and "in the interest of fighting childhood obesity, promoting healthier student and staff lifestyles, and supporting stronger academic achievement." Nice.

We think these new statements of commitment from Mayor Brown and Compton's education leaders to change a landscape that encourages inactivity and unhealthy lifestyles are great news. Stay tuned - with so much at stake we'll keep working in Compton until students here have the same access to options for biking and walking that many of us in other parts of the country take for granted.

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