In February 2009, a speaker at an annual Chamber of Commerce event in Reno County listed several index measures for the county to consider: cost of lifestyle, around town, vitality, learning, earning, and after hours. Two of these areas were considered strengths (cost of lifestyle and around town), but the rest needed some work. Residents were invited to a large gathering where they focused not on the problems in the remaining five areas, but on which of these areas sparked a passion for doing something. Based on that passion and commitment to act, teams were formed for each of the five areas.
True to its name, the Vitality Team took off, concentrating on green spaces and a wellness initiative to get more people outdoors in healthy activities. Encouraged by the response to their first-ever Bike-to-Work day (which drew over 100 people), the Vitality Team soon took on bike lane access to trails throughout the county, connecting city and county trails, and sponsoring other events such as Saturday morning bike rides and a Halloween 5K run/walk that was followed by a healthy breakfast.
Jessica Miller, a member of Leadership Reno County and Director of the Reno County Growth Coalition, reports that there was some pushback from those who didn’t see the need for investments in trails and safe sidewalks, as well as from Department of Parks and Recreation officials who weren’t sure how to handle the influx of motivated volunteers. The specific goal is to have 26 miles of connected trails that residents can enjoy, and the team is well on its way to achieving this. “But if we think about the outcomes as general wellness and getting more people outdoors,” Jessica says, “there’s really no end in sight!”