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Marco invited into national program

ELKINS — Elkins Mayor Jerry Marco has been invited to take part in a national program created to help improve communities.

Marco was selected to be part of the second class of the Champions Institute which helps “motivated local elected officials equitably define, design, build and evaluate Complete Streets in their communities,” according to a City of Elkins press release Tuesday.

“We are pleased to welcome Mayor Marco to the second class of the Champions Institute,” said John Robert Smith, a senior policy advisor at Smart Growth America, and the former mayor of Meridian, Mississippi. “Marco’s commitment to position their hometown to become a more accessible, equitable, and economically viable community for all residents was compelling.

“Experts in their field will provide the mayor with valuable skills throughout the program and share their own insights in developing more activity-friendly routes to everyday destinations.”

During the Champions Institute program, which will take place over the next six months, participants will attend virtual learning sessions “that will make them experts in equity-based principles and train them on the fundamental steps to take to achieve Complete Streets in their community, from envisioning to implementation,” the release states. “Participants will also learn about best practices and challenges from across the country, as they grapple with different strategies in a collaborative and supportive peer-learning environment.”

“It’s really exciting to be selected for the Champions program, because it connects directly to so many things that I’m really passionate about,” Marco said. “We want Elkins to be as walkable as possible and to be a city where pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists share the streets safely. That’s key to getting people moving more and enjoying the health and mental benefits of an active lifestyle. I can’t wait to bring what I learn back to Elkins.”

The program is funded through a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Nutrition, Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. This program is designed to support the Active People, Healthy Nation initiative through developing more activity-friendly routes to everyday destinations.

“Smart Growth America envisions a country where no matter where you live, or who you are, you can enjoy living in a place that is healthy, prosperous and resilient,” the release states. “We empower communities through technical assistance, advocacy, and thought leadership to realize our vision of livable places, healthy people and shared prosperity.”

“Increased physical activity can improve health, quality of life, and reduce health care costs,” the release continues. “These improvements can help reduce the risk of at least 20 chronic diseases and conditions and provide effective treatment for many of these conditions. Other potential benefits include better school performance and improved military readiness. Building active and walkable communities can help support local economies, result in less air pollution, and create more cohesive communities.”

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