Lakeland, FL Named Runner Friendly Community

11/19/2014 - 12:40

Detroit & Flint also named

Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) is pleased to announce additional Runner Friendly Community® designations for 2014, which include: Lakeland, Florida, plus Detroit and Flint, Michigan.

These communities have shown that they meet the program’s criteria, which includes community infrastructure, community support, and local government support for running. Each community has shown they have an infrastructure that can foster physical activity in a safe environment. They have a proven track record that organizations and businesses work together to promote running as a healthy exercise and sport. With the most important criteria being, there are positive relationships between the running community and local government.

The goal of the RRCA’s Runner Friendly Community program is to shine a national spotlight on communities that standout as runner-friendly and provide incentives and ideas for communities to work towards becoming runner friendly communities. Runner Friendly Communities can also increase the quality of life, improve physical activity for residents, and provide for increased economic impact for the community.
Here’s the info on Lakeland, one of the outstanding running communities in Running Journal’s southern coverage area:

Lakeland is the largest city along Interstate 4 between Tampa and Orlando with a population of 97,422 as of the 2010 census. It is home to the Publix supermarkets headquarters, one of the largest regional grocery store chains in the country, as well as the city’s biggest employer. Fittingly, the dominant feature in Lakeland is the city’s many lakes, including 38 that are named and many others that are not. The centerpiece is Lake Hollingsworth, the city’s largest lake, surround by a 2.85-mile multi-use trail. The lake’s central location and picturesque atmosphere results in it being used by over 2,000 people a day. Water fountains are frequently located along the city’s 20+ miles of pedestrian networks along with community restrooms. There is available parking near pedestrian networks (trail head parking lots), and the city ensures the trails are well lit and well-marked. Whenever there are issues involving the trails or sidewalks, the city works department is quick to address them. There is also a strategic plan in place to extend the city’s trail network.

The City of Lakeland Parks and Recreation Department does a wonderful job of scheduling the venues for local running events. They are easy to work with and give long-standing events priority in scheduling. The Lakeland Runners Club (LRC), who submitted the application, has a great relationship with local police. Lakeland officers are noted as being very accommodating in the permitting process for events and with securing officers to keep events safe.

The LRC is committed to fostering youth running in their community. The club is responsible for bringing Cross Country to Polk County middle schools, which previously had no such program. The LRC established a scholarship program to provide financial assistance to graduating seniors that participated in Cross Country or Track & Field during high school. The Lakeland Runners Club’s Kids Running Program has been a huge success and averages 50-75 children per week during the course of the year serving children between the ages of 5-12. The program director, Grace Owen, was recently named the Outstanding Youth Program Director of the Year by the RRCA.

The Lakeland running community has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years, largely due to the efforts of the Lakeland Runners Club and FITniche, the local run specialty store. Both have contributed greatly to the local community by put running in the forefront and making it something that residents want to do. In 2010, the membership of the LRC was between 200-250 members. Now their membership stands between 600-650 and the average age is getting younger. The LRC’s hope is to create a running community that continues to replenish itself and continues to promote a healthy and active lifestyle for Lakeland residents.

“Over many years of implementation and coordination with the Polk County Transportation Planning Organization, Lakeland’s local pedestrian system is built on the concept of the 5 “E’s” of Education, Engineering, Encouragement, Enforcement, and Evaluation,” said R. Howard Wiggs, Lakeland’s Mayor. “The City of Lakeland has demonstrated it has a positive relationship with the running community by meeting all the criteria established by theRoad Runners Club of America.”

Community leaders providing support and letters of recommendation include: Howard Wiggs, Mayor of Lakeland; Richard Perez, City Planner for Lakeland; Rich Wills, FITniche owner; Hans Lehman, Lieutenant Lakeland Police Department; Chris McArthur, General Manager Black and Brew Coffee House; Mitchell Harvey, Owner Mitchell’s Coffee House.

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