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Healthy living is goal of Pa. study of hiking and biking routes

July 20, 2011|By ROXANN MILLER | roxann.miller@herald-mail.com

MERCERSBURG, Pa. — What began as a Mercersburg family doctor's vision to promote healthy living has evolved into an initiative to study hiking and biking routes in the area.

Dr. Elizabeth George said she was seeing children in her office who were clearly obese and out of shape.

"I could see that diabetes and hypertension were in their future," George said. "There are communities like Boulder, Colo., that have an obesity rate of 11 percent. Ours is 30 percent by the time people reach their 20s."

George's vision is all about walking, biking, exercise and leading a healthy life, she said.

With George at the helm, others got interested in the healthy-living initiative better known as the Montgomery Peters Mercersburg Connectivity Project. The MPMC group is a subcommittee of the Mercersburg Area Council for Wellness.

On Wednesday, members of the MPMC Project and state and local officials met in the library at James Buchanan Middle School to kick off the feasibility study for walking and biking in Mercersburg borough, Peters Township, Montgomery Township and surrounding areas.

Members of the MPMC Steering Committee signed a contract with Robert Thomas of Campbell Thomas & Co., of Philadelphia to prepare the feasibility study.

"We're not going to dictate to people," Thomas said. "We're going to show what's possible."

The cost of the study was $30,000, part of which was paid by a $5,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and $7,500 in grant funds from Mercersburg.

Carrie Jenkins, MPMC Steering Committee member and grant writer, said the lion's share of the funds came from private donations from businesses and individuals.

Jenkins said developing biking/walking/hiking trails will provide a place to exercise in a safe environment for all ages.

"Dr. George has increasing rates of obesity among children in her practice, and her worry was it will continue unless something is done," Jenkins said. "The generation coming after us will be the first generation in decades that won't live as long as we're going to live due to health issues unless we act now."

George said the feasibility study will evaluate a number of variables such as where people can walk, where they could connect and what resources are available.

"I'm very excited," George said. "We are creating a long-term plan for the community."

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