Mayor on Duty

Health and wellness is an important social determinant and essential to a vibrant community.

I have written on several occasions about the Blue Zone Communities that promote health and longevity by way of diet, exercise, relationships and meaningful work.  While Highlands is not designated as one of these communities, a lot of the things we do are very close to that model.

One of the areas that I am most proud of in recent years is the renovation and expansion of our Recreation Department. This initiative has been a partnership between the town, county and private sector philanthropy. Lester Norris has done a great job in overseeing the effort.

Our upgrades to the aging recreation infrastructure began with a small tax increase earmarked for recreation improvements some four years ago.  During this period the town has spent more on recreation improvements than the tax has generated. For the next couple of years the tax will stay in place in order to recoup the total improvement costs.  After that time I would like to see that tax, 1.5 cent per $100 of property, redirected to other infrastructure initiatives such as road improvements.

Private donations and in-kind support have been essential to recreation improvements. Lead gifts from Art and Angela Williams have triggered additional private support as was seen in the development of the skateboard park.

We have much to be proud of when it comes to recreation facilities. They serve all the residents on the plateau. Our swimming pool is an innovation that provides yearlong swimming.  I have b been impressed with the wonderful programming that has been an outgrowth of the updated facility.

The basketball court, that also serves pickle ball, and our newly refurbished ball field are all first rate.  Ball teams from all over the region enjoy playing at our beautiful complex. I have been delighted to see so many kids and adult use the recently completed skateboard park.

The newly completed aerobics room and workout facilities have added to the array of recreational options available. All the rooms where bridge competitions are held have been refurbished. There are still areas in recreation where improvements can be made, but the heavy lifting of bringing the recreation facilities up to standard has been accomplished.

Another great recreation spot is Founders Park.  Children constantly play in the park and many of our older adults love to pass through the park, many times with their dogs in tow on daily walks around town.

Highlands is not alone in promoting recreations venues and the impact on health and wellness.  The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has given the National League of Cities a grant to create a pilot project focused on promoting healthy cities.  Atlanta, Birmingham and Charlotte are included in the 12 cities that have been selected to develop plans to promote health and wellness.  I like to think Highlands is already committed to such efforts.

Hopefully our community will be able to partner with other entities committed to public wellness such as the newly formed Dogwood Trust.

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