For Lauderdale Lakes in South Florida, the health strategy is all about building links—among destinations, programs, funding streams, and partners. This city of 32,000, like many communities, is home to a number of people with chronic health conditions, but through a strategic leveraging of resources it expects to provide facilities so residents can improve their health.
The city has invested $7.5 million to develop three new parks in recent years and continues to create more places to play. The city also promotes routine activity by taking advantage of a unique landscape feature—a canal that bisects the four-square-mile community and connects a K–12 school complex, the city’s major park, a second elementary school, city hall, and several neighborhoods.
Through citizen input during a community redevelopment agency (CRA) planning process in 2003, the city came to see the canal as a potential greenway for children to walk or bike to school safely.
Kathleen Margoles, Lauderdale Lakes’ parks and recreation director from 2005 to August 2009, said people became aware of the opportunity to walk and bicycle to their destinations as soon as the first half of the greenway was completed in 2007. For this success, she credits the “small but extremely progressive citizenry,” a visionary elected body, and innovative thinking by local CRA Director J. Gary Rogers.
In another productive partnership, three years ago Lauderdale Lakes used a reciprocal agreement to share facilities with the Broward County School Board to build the community’s first swimming pool on school district property—between the elementary and middle schools. The popular pool now ranks third in the county in the number of swimming lessons provided during the school year, just behind the much larger municipalities of Fort Lauderdale and Pompano Beach.
To cover construction costs, the city leveraged a $1.5 million grant from a 2001 Broward County Safe Parks bond referendum. It was designed to ensure that children in the area learn to swim—a critical safety issue in South Florida. The pool property, which is owned and operated by the city, generates approximately $30,000 in annual revenue. This income helps cover 15 percent of its operating budget of approximately $200,000.
Since this success with the municipal pool, the city has been working on a second joint initiative involving the schools. Lauderdale Lakes is using a new master planning process to create a park that will be open for public use during hours the school is not in session. The school district had planned to build a new cafeteria at the adjacent school, and it owned a tennis court, ball field, and track that were in poor condition and needed upgrades.
The city agreed to renovate the outdoor amenities and provide the new cafeteria with an additional restroom with outdoor access. In exchange, the school district agreed to open the facilities to community use outside regular school hours. “We really need to maximize what we have,” Margoles said.
Lauderdale Lakes also has brought its collaborative approach to programming to keep residents active and healthy. For example, the city took a Broward County School Board program for fourth graders and adapted it.
The original initiative provided planners to fourth graders that assigned small, daily nutrition and physical activity tasks, plus parental involvement.
The city’s version for adult employees is an eight-week program that requires documentation of food consumption and 30 minutes of daily physical activity. The city supplements the program with classes and activities that include a Pilates class taught by the city manager. The concept is even at work for parents of kids in local summer camps. “I just think that the time is excellent to get people up and moving,” Margoles said. “The whole extended family can participate. . .for no money.”
For more information on ICMA’s Healthy Communities initiatives, go to http://icma.org/activeliving. To learn more about Lauderdale Lakes’ efforts, go to www.lauderdalelakes.org or contact Monique Armbrister, public information officer, at email@example.com or 954/535-2700.