Healthy people and healthy neighborhoods are intertwined. Healthy neighborhoods have several things in common, like safe streets, access to healthy foods, opportunities to be physically active, affordable housing, and people who care about their neighborhood and their neighbors.
Walkability is often cited as one key in a healthy neighborhood, especially in neighborhoods that are underserved and low-income. Walking is one of the best exercises to promote physical and mental health. It’s free, it doesn’t require special equipment, and people of all ages can enjoy it. For people with mobility issues, wheelchair-friendly neighborhoods (which include streets with cut-out curbs) offer an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, which in and of itself promotes social and emotional health.
Taking good health to the streets - South Salt Creek, one of Lincoln’s oldest neighborhoods, has been particularly active in promoting neighborhood health and walkability. In 2019, South Salt Creek collaborated with Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln, a local community health nonprofit, to host the nonprofit’s annual one-day outdoor movement festival, “Streets Alive!” The festival, which moves to a new neighborhood every two years, offers free health resources and promotes physical activity and good nutrition in a fun and interactive way. In 2017, as an adjunct to “Streets Alive!” Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln began developing community improvement projects with host neighborhoods to leave a lasting impact after the festival was over.
When the festival moved to South Salt Creek, the neighborhood organization worked with the nonprofit, talking with local residents, businesses, churches and schools to determine a project that could benefit all, and the F Street Tunnel Project was born. Scheduled to begin in 2020, the process was interrupted by the pandemic, but returned full strength this August.
F Street Tunnel Project - For the South Salt Creek neighborhood, the F Street Tunnel offers one of the only safe passages across train tracks on Third Street. Lighting in the tunnel was insufficient -- the ceiling was peeling and leaking, the mural inside was faded, retaining walls were crumbling, and landscaping around it was overgrown. All these factors made for an unsafe passage for kids walking to and from Park Middle School and for residents walking in the neighborhood. Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln sought sponsors for the extensive repairs and artists to create a new a mural. BNSF Railway, Walmart and the Lincoln Community Foundation stepped forward to provide funding. Cascade Cabinets & Flooring, Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln staff and AmeriCorps members provided some of the labor. After this year’s “Streets Alive!” Lincoln Parks and Recreation will take on the task of taming the landscaping.
The tunnel and the art of good health - After reviewing several great artist submissions for the tunnel walls, the South Salt Creek Community Organization and Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln chose local artist Micah Mullins to create a new mural for the tunnel. Mullins chose a mural theme that would honor the diversity and vibrancy of the neighborhood and promote walkability. Mullins started his mural this year in early August, and it took about two and a half weeks to complete.
“I’m honored to have been selected for this beautification project in a part of town that helped develop my artistic talents,” said Mullins. “Helping the neighborhood offer a safer and cleaner walking space, while educating others in urban artwork is a dream come true.“ The tunnel will be celebrated with a ribbon cutting at the completion of the landscaping either this fall or next spring. The South Salt Creek neighborhood will again host “Streets Alive!” around Cooper Park on Sept. 26.
Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln (HealthyLincoln.org) and LNKTV Health (LNKTVHealth.lincoln.ne.gov) bring you Health and the City, a monthly column that examines relevant community health issues and spotlights the local organizations that impact our community's wellness. Send questions or comments to email@example.com.