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CDC says we're fat, but don't use our grant for your walking trail

The Jonesboro Sun - 9/24/2017

CDC says we're fat, but don't use our grant for your walking trail

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would like for Craighead County residents to exercise more - they just won't pay for it.

The CDC program to reduce obesity in high-obesity areas offers funds in conjunction with universities and colleges in the highest obesity areas of the country - and Arkansas was No. 3 among states in 2016 based on CDC figures compiled by the nonprofit Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, according to the website

The city of Bono received a $26,000 allocation through the program that Mayor Dan Shaw planned on using to create a walking trail in Bono Legacy Park.

In April the city also received a grant for $194,000 from the state to construct the park, and the city also sought a grant from the CDC to create a walking trail for residents.

Walking seems like a reasonable way to fight obesity.

According to the CDC website, "walking is a great way to get the physical activity needed to obtain health benefits. Walking does not require any special skills. It also does not require a gym membership or expensive equipment."

On the CDC website, they highlight Craighead County as a high-obesity county, along with Chicot, Jefferson and Monroe counties. Craighead County's population of adults is 40.4 percent obese, according to the CDC.

However, the CDC doesn't want any of its grant funds spent on walking trail construction.

Mary Hightower, director of communication services for UA System Division of Agriculture, said the grant was rescinded when the CDC discovered asphalt was in the plan.

"While the community funds do allow for the purchase of some raw materials, the CDC approvers did not permit the funds to be used for construction and labor," Hightower said. "The community funds were rescinded because it involved laying down asphalt, which the grantor, the CDC, determined was 'construction' and not allowed."

The CDC also took issue with plans to cover a portion of the track with a metal structure.

"They called me back two weeks ago and said, 'Whoa, we made a mistake,'" Shaw told The Sun. "This grant cannot be used for asphalt paving, and it cannot be used for anything metal. If you want to make your little cover out of wood, we can pay for that. Anyway, no walking track."

The mayor said the track will be built with or without the CDC grant, and when completed next spring, Bono Legacy Park will offer a virtual buffet of obesity-fighting activities, including a playground, basketball court, baseball field along with the walking trail.

The Craighead County Road Department has offered to help with equipment. Shaw said the city will pay the cost of material, about $8,000.

It's disappointing and ironic that a government agency that supposedly exists to mitigate disease would withdraw funding for a community asset that would promote fitness - while at the same time highlighting that community as needing to be more fit.

Kudos to Mayor Shaw and the Craighead County Road Department for carrying on with the walking trail.

Hopefully, some local philanthropic group or Arkansas State University will donate the money for the walking trail in Bono. It would be great if ASU could come through where the CDC has failed.


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