County participating in National Complete Streets

MONDAY, DECEMBER 2, 2019

The Jackson County Health Department is leading a group of local city and community partners who are committed to improving the health of Eastern Jackson County residents.

In 2017 the group, known as “Building a Healthier Jackson County” (BHJC), began a targeted effort to prioritize and address health issues within the county. BHJC identified healthy eating and active living as a priority and made one of its goals to help municipalities adopt and/or strengthen Complete Streets policies.

The National Complete Streets Coalition, is a non-profit, non-partisan alliance of public interest organizations and transportation professionals committed to the development and implementation of Complete Streets policies and practices. Complete Streets is the integration of people and places in the planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance of transportation networks.

According to Bridgette Shaffer, Health Director for Jackson County Health Department, “Throughout the County, there exists elements that pose great potential for Complete Streets implementation. Four cities have written policies or resolutions that embody Complete Streets principles and each city maintains a number of city parks and trails that encourage residents to walk and bike.”

BHJC recently applied for and was selected to participate in the National Complete Streets Coalition’s Complete Streets Consortium Series. This technical assistance program will benefit three communities in Missouri. Along with Eastern Jackson County, the cities of Kirkwood and Joplin were selected.

The coalition is an extension of Smart Growth America which is a national non-profit organization that empowers communities through technical assistance, advocacy and thought leadership to create livable places, healthy people and shared prosperity.

“This opportunity aligns with our efforts as well as provides an opportunity for Eastern Jackson County to utilize national resources. These resources will be used to strengthen consistency between EJC cities’ Complete Streets policies and aligns common language and understanding as active transportation routes cross jurisdictions throughout the County,” Shaffer said.

Jackson County Health Department staff will be leading the Eastern Jackson County cohort for this Consortium Series.

The consortium will be taught throughout the winter and spring of 2020. Themes will include policy creation and implementation, communicating project redesign to communities and cross-sectoral collaboration. These themes were tailored to fit the needs of Missouri communities.

Eastern Jackson County will learn alongside Kirkwood and Joplin. Each jurisdiction will travel to all three sites to learn together. Discussions will focus on how to measure and communicate the benefits of Complete Streets for health equity, economic vitality and other goals, as well as how to create a safe and inviting transportation network for everyone in the community, regardless of age, ability, income, race, health status and mode of transportation.

In addition, following the series, the Jackson County government has made a commitment to assess its current Unified Development Code and make changes that embody true Complete Streets principles for the rest of the County to follow.

“BHJC is pleased that our consortium team comprises individuals from different sectors and jurisdictions throughout the County,” Shaffer said. “City planners, elected officials, health department staff, regional non-profits and community volunteers sit on the 10 person team, all perspectives and expertise will give insight on how to better communicate and implement policy creation throughout the county.”

Three municipalities are represented on the team, Lee’s Summit, Grandview and Sugar Creek, which all have interest in Complete Streets, but are at different phases of implementation. County wide, nearly every municipality expresses interest in incorporating active transportation into residents’ daily lives. However, each city’s individual efforts are happening in isolation, creating fragmentation between land use policies as well as physical destinations within the jurisdiction.

Shaffer said, “This consortium will allow EJC municipalities to create consistent policies that support regional connectivity and transportation for residents of all ages, incomes, and abilities. Ultimately, this will yield activity-friendly routes and destinations for the entire County that will improve health and enhance quality of life for our residents.”