This blog synthesizes MRT’s work with Osceola, and MRT’s involvement with the report Guide to Activating Rural America through Active Living Policies, April 2021: Insights from Communities Creating Access to Places for Physical Activity
The City of Osceola, MO is a community of roughly 1,000 individuals, located within the northern Ozarks of West-Central Missouri. Community partners joined forces and were selected as a 2018 US EPA Healthy Places for Healthy People community, which sparked general interest in livable streets principles. This planning process generated planning and support for new sidewalks, trails, and housing for the aging population. As Osceola laid the groundwork for implementing Livable Streets priorities, momentum was gaining for action and implementation to follow.
Osceola was selected for a Missouri Physical Activity and Nutrition (MPAN) grant, which kicked off MRT’s involvement with Osceola. Our friends at the MO Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) administered the grant, which supported MRT to provide technical assistance to community partners and witness firsthand the strides made in active living. Through MRT’s relationship with DHSS and University of Missouri Extension, MRT’s Project Director Ron Bentch joined the Activating Rural America (ARA) Complete Streets Advisory Group, part of the Physical Activity Research and Evaluation Network (PAPREN). This work group is formed by stakeholders from around the nation that work in rural communities on active transportation initiatives. The team members established questions to be used in community interviews, while considering communities that may be a good fit for further support.
Through MRT’s prior work in Osceola, Osceola was selected as a community to be evaluated, highlighting the community’s efforts to establish the 2020 Livable Streets Plan. Osceola’s plan defines Livable Streets as “the roads, streets, routes, sidewalks, and pathways that people take to reach their everyday destinations. Livable streets take a holistic view of the built environment, taking into account not only automobiles but all users of streets.” Released in April 2021, the report Guide to Activating Rural America through Active Living Policies, April 2021: Insights from Communities Creating Access to Places for Physical Activity recognizes MRT and our work in Osceola as a national case study for implementing active transportation and living policies in other rural communities.
Osceola’s case study highlighted all of the components–good and bad–that went into making this project an important, long-lasting asset for the community. In particular, the report identifies:
MRT was featured as a key success factor for the community to move the process forward. According to the Guide to Activating Rural America, MRT, “connected them with resources from other small communities that had successfully implemented Complete Streets policies,” further disseminating that “these examples were key.”