Dooley plans to re-do next fall's high school schedule, to free up time for physical activity, before school and during lunch, for instance, she said. She plans to add phys ed electives and arrange zumba right after school.
"None of this would have happened if we hadn't started talking," Price said.
Tying bits and pieces together
While the mayor and his associates work on town projects, Sissy Price and school employees worked on people projects. But the two groups haven't coordinated in any organized way.
Then, at the end of Main Street, there's the Methodist church. Christ Church United Methodist Church bought the vacant lot next door last year. They plan to build a community recreation center there. "It'll be open to everyone, not just people from our church," said Pastor Doug Smailes.
"It would be huge for the community if they could pull it off," Price said. But people haven't gotten together yet to talk about ways they could help them do it.
They must raise more than a million dollars, and the church district must approve it, "so it'll happen on God's time, but a blind person can see how much it's needed," Smailes said.
And then, there are volunteers who just jump in and do things as needs arise:
* A few years ago, Sutton-area parents built a football field for peewee football with their own money and land. "About 40 people came every work day," said Gary Ellison, county commissioner.
* Some Sutton citizens got tired of no hiking and biking trail, so they cut a three-mile trail through Army Corp of Engineers land, with Corps permission. Now, every year, they hold a trail cleanup day.
* After school, if a Sutton boy or girl can get to Flatwoods for practice and games, they can play in the parent-run soccer club. Boys can get into volunteer-run wrestling at the high school.
"All over the county, people are trying," Price said. "It's just not coordinated or anything."
"There is so much potential in Braxton County," said Monica Miller, director of the state's Main Street program. "If they ever want to apply for a big grant, they won't have much trouble showing they've tried to help themselves." They're ahead of the game in that, but most funders, federal and private, also require coordinated group planning these days, she said.
We need to get together
Delegate Brent Boggs, D-Braxton, wants to bring people together this spring or summer -- government, schools, health, churches, volunteers, parents -- to inventory what's already been done for fitness countywide "and talk about how we can build on that."
"I'm hearing a new energy when people talk about this,' he said. "I think people are concerned about their kids' health and fitness, and they want to talk about what we can do."
For every community, there's a right time to do effective planning," Miller said. "Maybe this is theirs."
They have new tools to work with. A school-based health center opened in January at the high school. And earlier this year, Braxton doubled the hotel/motel tax, to close to $200,000 a year. The county commission made application forms so towns could apply for part of that money. Campbell plans to get a copy.
Campbell also wants to start a canoe and kayak rental business this summer "We're hopeful," he said. "We're moving."
The town owns the parking next to the Methodist Church lot, he said. "Suppose we could end up with a recreation center next to an athletic field on the town's lot, next to the community pool with a river access point?" he said. These are dreams, he said, but "sometimes it's a matter of getting everybody talking and tying all the bits and pieces together."
Reach Kate Long at (304) 348-1798 or katel...@wvgazette.com.
Where can towns find planning help?
Communities that want to offer more healthy activities as part of economic development can find technical help at:
* The West Virginia Development Office: The Main Street program offers two such programs (ON TRAC and Main Street). About 30 communities are involved. The Flex-E-grant program offers small grants to non-profits for healthy community projects. www.wvmainstreet.org or (304) 558-2234 or 1-800-982-3386.
* The nonprofit WV Community Development HUB: At least 40 communities participate in the HubCAP and Blueprint programs. Coaches guide participants through development activities and help them connect with funding sources, service providers, and each other. www.wvhub.org or 304-566-7332.
* The West Virginia Bureau of Public Health: Specialists in healthy community activities can help communities plan next steps to increase opportunities for physical activity and healthy diet. Call Jessica Wright, 304-356-4193.
"The Shape We're In" has been supported by a Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism fellowship, administered by the California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.