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Award celebrates all that makes it fun to be healthy

Oxford’s 11 miles of bike paths and countless miles of walking paths helped the city earn a Healthy Hometown award, which also comes with a $25,000 grant the city will use to install outdoor fitness equipment.

The Healthy Hometown Award from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation will be awarded officially to Oxford on Thursday at noon on the steps of City Hall.

The exercise equipment will be placed along the bike path near the Oxford Activity Center.

“On behalf of the Board of Alderman and the entire community, we are honored to be named a Healthy Hometown,” said Mayor Pat Patterson. “We are working in conjunction with the university to create more opportunities for everyone in the community to become more active and aware of health issues.”

The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation noted the city’s many healthy assets, such as area trails and paths, and worksite wellness programs at the city, University of Mississippi and area businesses among its accomplishments in creating a healthy community culture. The Foundation also noted the improvements in school nutrition and nutrition education for Oxford School District students brought about by Good Food for Oxford Schools.

Local physician William Dabbs agrees Oxford is a step ahead of the game with its many public fitness facilities.

“Extensive bike trails and lanes around town, walking trails at public parks, and a pedestrian-friendly downtown mean that we have plenty of opportunities for exercise,” Dabbs said Tuesday. “Our park system is particularly well-maintained, safe, and user-friendly. My wife and I walk at Pat Lamar Park as part of our date nights whenever the weather allows.”

Dabbs said the city can only benefit from moving forward and creating more opportunities for outdoor exercise.

“We should just build on what works,” he said. “Future construction going forward needs to be designed with an eye toward cyclists and pedestrians. We really have done a good job with that thus far.”

Bike paths have been included in the city’s Complete Streets policy and three years ago, the city built 11 miles of bike paths along North and South Lamar boulevards, College Hill and Old Sardis roads.

“Studies have shown that the addition of sidewalks, bike lanes and greenways make it more likely that people will engage in active lifestyles,” said Kate Kellum, chairwoman of the Oxford Pathways Commission, which headed up the Pathways bike lane project. “It seems to me that each new segment of infrastructure prompted by Oxford’s Complete Street Policy makes it more likely that people will choose to walk, run or ride a bike.  I’m confident that our aldermen and mayor will continue to build on their successes.”

The award presentation will feature Sheila Grogan, executive director of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation. A community walk led by Patterson will follow the ceremony. Thursday is also a Bike-to-Lunch Day, with some Square restaurants featuring discounts to patrons who show their bike helmets. Find a list of participating restaurants at http://bike.olemiss.edu/bike-to-lunch.