The City of Milledgeville has come a long way since a coalition of businesses, political leaders, faith-based organizations and nonprofits came together to form Live Healthy Baldwin in 2009.
Successes include community and school gardens, Safe Routes to School, rails-to-trails and farm-to-school initiatives. In the spring of 2013, community partners helped pass a complete streets policy to increase bicycle and pedestrian safety in downtown Milledgeville and improve connectivity throughout the community.
With a city revitalization process already underway, Project Director Jim Lidstone, community advocates and lead agency, Georgia College & State University (GCSU), saw an opportunity to engage the biking population to increase transportation safety in the town center.
Progressing the Movement
The process began in January 2012 when the partnership first gathered input from the Bicycling Club of Milledgeville and conducted several community case studies. They took a policy composite to the Partners for Progress Transportation Committee because there was no official transportation department. Through a series of revisions and reaching out to specific city council members, they were able to introduce the plan at work sessions and later add it to the city council agenda. The Complete Streets policy officially passed on May 28, 2013.
Safety has always been an issue in the downtown area with major state highways, heavy truck traffic and university parking issues. Through this process, downtown businesses, community members, and GCSU faculty and students were able to connect the dots and realize the need for a comprehensive policy to improve safety and promote economic growth. With the ordinance in place, there have already been improvements throughout the area including shared-lane markings on roads, bike racks, covered bike shelters, repair stations on campus and increased signage, with more to come.
The collaboration between organizations and residents is what helped propel the Complete Streets policy to make Milledgeville a safer community that encourages total health. In addition to the Bicycling Club, other key partners include the Milledgeville Community Garden Association, Baldwin County Public Schools, Milledgeville/ Baldwin Chamber of Commerce, the Oconee River Greenway Authority, City of Milledgeville, Baldwin County Commissioners, and Oconee Regional Medical Center. Lidstone says, “It’s all about establishing relationships and going from being somebody who is putting their hand out to being an ally and a helper in bringing ideas and resources to the table.”
In the future, the coalition hopes to continue to develop a comprehensive transportation plan and raise awareness about the benefits of becoming a designated Bicycle Friendly Community. With strategic planning and informed decision making, Live Healthy Baldwin will continue to make both health and safety high priorities in Milledgeville.