Application Summary for the All-America City Awards:
Each year, residents are engaged in the city council’s strategic planning process through an online survey circulated via a dedicated website, app, social media, and additional publications. The Comprehensive Plan was also updated in 2016 using public input gathered through a phone survey, a community charrette, and several public meetings. The city’s Civic Leadership Academy educates citizens about city government and gives them a clear path for future appointment on boards and commissions. Additionally, on-site neighborhood block parties and bilingual communications are used to reach residents who have historically been left out of the decision-making process.
1.) Expanding Opportunities for Play
As a city that struggles with obesity and high rates of congestive heart failure, opportunities for recreation are vital.
The City of Lancaster actively partners with the Lancaster Independent School District (LISD), which has built and/or reconstructed three schools to ensure that a playground that serves the schools as well as the greater community is built. The city and the LISD share maintenance responsibilities of the playgrounds, particularly during the summer months, so that children have a place to go when school is not in session. Additionally, a new middle school is being built that will incorporate not only a new and improved outdoor space, but also an extension of the trails system and another playground.
A Kaboom grant recently rebuilt an aging, wooden playground that was a strain on the Parks Department’s operations and maintenance budget. Residents, city staff, LISD staff, the Youth Advisory Council, Cedar Valley College, Homeowner’s Associations, and eight Public Improvement Districts came together to build a new park – Kid’s Square Park. The students at both local elementary schools within two miles of the park designed the new playground. After the park was designed, city staff worked to demolish and clear the site. In one day, community volunteers and stakeholders constructed the new playground area, additional park amenities, and rehabilitated an existing restroom facility.
In total, there were 286 volunteers that included Allstate Insurance’s employee volunteers, citizens, and children. This new community asset is being highly utilized in an area that previously had limited park access.
2.) Community Challenge
To address health disparities revealed in a Best Southwest Partnership study, the City of Lancaster is participating in the It’s Time Texas Community Challenge. The challenge is an 8-week competition that unites and mobilizes, schools, businesses, organizations, community members, and mayors toward the common goal of transforming a community’s health.
The Mayor’s Health and Fitness Council was also formed and includes key partners such as LISD, Parks and Recreation staff, Lancaster Police Department staff, Lancaster Fire and Medical staff, Lancaster Library staff, Lancaster Community Relations staff, Cedar Valley College, Anytime Fitness, Crescent Medical Center, and other corporate partners. The council has initiated several health programs, including:
3.) Expanding Workplace Wellness
Anonymous biometric data revealed that Lancaster’s city employees were at risk for increased heart disease and obesity-related complications.
The city partnered with Methodist Health System’s Live Bright Program to provide wellness coaches, healthy meal plans, health training, and exercise advice. There were prizes and drawings offered throughout the year for participation, and employees received incentives to get screened for high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease. All employees were offered CPR education through the Lancaster Fire Department, and citizens were also able to participate.
Through these efforts, the city was recognized as a fit friendly workplace and was a gold recipient of the American Heart Association. Staff continues to promote and support underutilized free local health resources and programming.