Activate Martinsville-Henry County
Activate staff works with government officials, community stakeholders, and local non-profit organizations to improve the livability, economic vitality and sustainability of Martinsville and Henry County. They accomplish this through planning, designing and implementing the necessary partnerships, promotions, policies and programs to support safe and improved mobility, access and recreational opportunities for walking and bicycling.
The Activate initiative is a unique opportunity to build an active community as an integral part of growth and dynamic change in the community. The program stimulates changes tot the physical environment and regional cultural norms so that more people of all ages walk and bicycle as part of their daily routines. These changes enhance Henry County's attractiveness as a business location and as a destination for environmentally sustainable tourism and development. The overarching goal of the program is to improve the quality of life in the county by increasing active living and active tourism.
The first three years of this program have been funded by the Harvest Foundation.
Who We Are:
Overall goals are to:
The overarching vision of the program is to improve the quality of life in the area by
Activate has two local staff members. Jeannie Frisco, Program Manager coordinates implementation of community assessments, technical training workshops, planning and project reviews and supervises Kimberly Payne, Education/Outreach Coordinator. Ms. Payne manages Safe Routes to Schools programs, promotional activities, and public information campaigns. An Advisory Team consisting of government officials, community stakeholders, and local non-profit organizations work with local staff to provide leadership and expertise to assist in the creation of showplace that not only stimulates the economy, but also provides a superb quality of life for future generations.
What We Do:
Activate has brought national experts to the area to address needs for a better quality of life which stimulates economic vitality in rural communities. Parris N. Glendening, President of Smart Growth Leadership Institute and former Governor of Maryland addressed The Harvest Foundation staff and Board the end of October 2007 on how improving the area’s quality of life makes good business sense. Glendening praised The Harvest Foundation for investing funds to transform Martinsville-Henry County into a place where streets are accessible to all.
A resolution was approved on October 23, 2007 by the Henry County Board of Supervisors and Martinsville City Council. The resolution supported the goals of Activate and their willingness to strive to work with Activate to achieve these goals and to improve the quality of life for residents and visitors.
Andy Clarke, Executive Director of the League of American Bicyclists addressed citizens at a community event hosted by Activate in December 2007. Clarke indicated that cities and towns across the country that have created bicycle friendly communities have had significant returns in the areas of economic development, health and quality of life. Mr. Clarke felt Martinsville and Henry County has potential to do the same. Clarke said that in general bicycle tourism and rides are big business. According to Clarke, bicycle vacations are the #3 outdoor vacation activity in the United States.
Activate sponsored two seminars in February. Michael Ronkin, President for Designing Streets for Pedestrians and Bicyclists LLC spoke to a group of local government professionals including engineers and planners about ways to make busy commercial roads such as Virginia Avenue easier for bicyclists and pedestrians to use. Mr. Ronkin presented mechanisms that engineers and planners could use that would make roads safer for everyone such as skinny streets and road diets. A walkabout was held on Virginia Avenue near Dutch Inn where participants analyzed the current situation and Ronkin discussed with participants how traffic hazards could be overcome through installation of traffic calming measures.
Several events have been hosted by Activate during its origination. In early October 2007, students pounded the pavement to activate community health as they participated in International Walk to School Week. Later that same month, Activate partnered with the Martinsville City Police Department to host a Bike Rodeo at Liberty Fair Mall. Partnering with Fugi, Activate gave away 40 bicycles to randomly selected students who participated in the event.
Activate partnered with the Henry County Bike Club and Martinsville Uptown Revitalization Association (MURA) to launch the “Lunch on the Run” campaign in February 2008. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, walkers and cyclists meet at the Farmer’s Market to participate in a thirty minute group walking or biking tour in Uptown Martinsville during their lunch hour. This initiative is gaining momentum as more walkers join in the activity. Discounts on bag lunches are being provided by local merchants to participants in this program. Activate supplies helmets to those participants joining the ride who come without one and provide educational material regarding the importance of bicycle and helmet safety.
Activate participated in the FastTrack 2008 Tradeshow. Partnering with Henry County Bike Club, Dan River Basin Association, Martinsville Rivers and Trails and the Friends of Philpott, active living opportunities made a huge impact on visitors to the event. Attendees were made aware of the vast number of outdoor amenities and programs available to get them up, out and active.
The Safe Routes to School Taskforce has been active. Four schools have been evaluated and identified for the SRTS program. These schools are: Martinsville Middle School, Albert Harris Elementary; Patrick Henry Elementary and Laurel Park Middle School. Of the four schools identified, the Taskforce concurred that Martinsville Middle School is the school of choice for the first SRTS Transportation Enhancement application.
The Activate Advisory Team held their first meeting in March 2008. This team is a broad-based, multi-disciplinary collaborative that brings leadership and expertise that will assist in expediting Activate’s mission to become an active living community.
Activate has partnered with Martinsville Uptown Revitalization and has assessed, with the help of its national partner, League of American Bicyclists and local City Public Works Department, locations for installation of bike racks in Uptown Martinsville. Racks are expected to be implemented in May 2008.
Activate has partnered with the Martinsville Henry County Chamber of Commerce to develop routes and provide support for the Chamber’s first charity bike ride. Tour de Scholar will be held May 31, 2008 and proceeds will go to the Chamber’s Partnership in Excellence Program.
Our Hopes for the Future:
Activate Martinsville/Henry County will, over the next three years, achieve the following objectives:
The Harvest Foundation’s support has been vital for the Activate initiative. Without their funding, active living advocacy and educational initiatives focused on the importance of walking and biking would not have occurred. Citizens are becoming more aware of how car free diets can positively affect their lives. Children are learning about how carbon footprints affect the environment and negatively impact their lives. Behavior modification is occurring and more people, through awareness initiatives, are thinking about walking or biking and the convenience this can provide to their life instead of the hassle in finding adequate parking. This would not have happened in this magnitude if Activate was not in existence.
Martinsville Middle School has been recognized as one of only ten schools in the United States that will be a national rural model for the Safe Routes to School Program. Without the national connection that lies with The Harvest Foundation, this wonderful opportunity would not have occurred. With the guidance of Activate, the school can receive 100% federal funding through the Safe Routes to School Program for planning and infrastructure for a two-mile radius surrounding the school.
The Henry County Bike Club is gaining strength thanks to the emphasis on increased biking and walking activities. Through partnering with Activate, the bike club has a stronger community presence and has grown their member base.
National partnerships have expedited improvements for complete streets. These contacts would not have been made without Harvest and their staff. The Complete Streets Partner will work with Activate over three years to implement policy changes to provide street and destination connectivity.
Activate will continue to partner with other entities such as Health and Wellness Coalition, Martinsville Rivers and Trails, Henry County Bike Club and others to work toward a bicycle friendly community.