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Bemidji City Council: Sviggum awards Bemidji as a 'Fit City'

Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry Steve Sviggum, right, awarded a plaque designating the city of Bemidji as a Fit City Monday night during the regular Bemidji City Council meeting. Accepting the plaque were, from left, Marti Lundin, the executive director of the Bemidji Wellness Education of Long Life; Marcia Larson, Bemidji parks and recreation director; Mayor Richard Lehmann; and Ashli Bowen, with B-WELL's Community Based Workgroup. Pioneer Photo/Bethany Wesley

Steve Sviggum, the commission of the Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry, presented the Bemidji City Council with a plaque proclaiming it as a Fit City.

Sviggum, speaking on behalf of Gov. Tim Pawlenty, told the council that the award is not to be taken lightly.

"To your citizens, other than their family and jobs, their health is the most important part of their lives," Sviggum said.

The Fit City award was initiated three years ago and there are about 40 Minnesota cities that have been recognized, Sviggum said.

The award recognized Bemidji for its trails and parks, including their accessibility and affordability, Sviggum said. It also considered the city's efforts to keep pedestrians and bicyclists safe and make public buildings accessible by walking or biking.

"The citizens still have to take advantage of those opportunities," Sviggum said.

Bemidji's efforts match the goals of Pawlenty and his administration in improving preventive health care and making fitness a priority for residents, he noted.

Also accepting the award were members of the Bemidji Wellness Education of Long Life and Parks and Recreation Director Marcia Larson.

A B-WELL work group initiated the Fit City effort as it developed a wellness program for the community, including a walkability assessment and strengthening a locally grown food initiative.

Larson submitted the application in which she touted the city's commitment to promoting physical activity:

- The city has developed a cohesive system of parks and trails, incorporating accessible neighborhood parks.

- The city has established a process to assess and improve existing local

- Supporting recreation programs that encourage active living.

- Ensuring that physical activity facilities such as trails, parks, etc., are accessible and affordable.

- Locating schools in walkable neighborhoods or creating walkable routes to existing schools.

- Introducing active living issues, such as walkable communities, into public dialogue.

- Increasing measures for pedestrian and bicyclist safety.

Bemidji actually received notification that it was designated as a Fit City earlier this year.

Sviggum said Bemidji is the first northern Minnesota city to receive the award.

B-WELL said, in a press release, that a Fit City Web site is being developed and will launch in the fall.