Barry County commissioners heard a presentation from Blue Zones representatives Dani Schafner and Mark Fenton during their meeting Tuesday.
Schafner and Fenton are called “built environment specialists” for their expertise in the study of activities that take place in specific environments. They spent three days touring Barry County this week.
Barry County is the first in Michigan to establish Blue Zones.
It's a public health initiative with $1.4 million in financial backing from a variety of community partners, foundations, local businesses and philanthropists, and the health care community.
The project incorporates a systems approach in which schools, employers, churches, agencies, businesses, elected officials, community leaders and citizens collaborate on policies and programs that key on better health and well-being. It's based on a research project published about 10 years ago by National Geographic that documented five communities with specific similarities that contributed to citizen longevity.
A “windshield tour and walkabout” on Monday was led by the county's Planning Director/Zoning Administrator Jim McManus and covered Freeport, Middleville, Yankee Springs, Gun Lake, Delton, Pierce Cedar Creek Institute, Nashville. On Tuesday, the tour continued, focusing on the city of Hastings, and included the stop at the county commissioners' meeting.
In other business:
• Animal Shelter Director Ken Kirsch and Tim McGavin updated the board on efforts to raise money to purchase a new van for the shelter. To date, $18,545 has been raised, which has fallen short of the $23,800 goal. They also raised additional funds of $5,000 for the trap, neuter and release program.
• Commissioners discussed construction of sidewalks at McKeown Bridge Park and recommended approving an expenditure of $8,588 for an ADA-compliant sidewalk and parking construction at McKeown Bridge Park.
• The board agreed to support Thornapple Township's request for a letter expressing an intent to collaborate with the township, the Village of Middleville, and the Thornapple Trail Association to cooperatively maintain approximately eight miles of the Paul Henry-Thornapple Trail from McCann Road to 108th Street across northwestern Barry County.
• The board agreed to recommend approval of Public Act 116 (Michigan Agricultural Farmland and Open Space Preservation) requests for Randolph and Brenda Spitzley and Burdock Hill Land LLC, both in Carlton Township.
• In a 6-1 vote by secret ballot, commissioners chose to appoint Democrat John Van Nieuwenhuyzen of Orangeville Township to serve on the Board of Canvassers for a term that starts Nov. 1 and ends Oct. 31, 2023. The other candidate who was considered was Amy Zegunis of Yankee Springs Township. Commissioner Ben Geiger mentioned that the county has openings on other committees that she may want to consider.
• Sheena Eastman, chairwoman of the county Democratic party, asked commissioners to consider moving meetings to evenings when more people would be able to attend.