LiveWell Montrose Olathe PhotoVoice Project Gives Input Into Strategic Plan
MONTROSE – Following creative photojournalism work from some Montrose and Olathe residents, as well as some Vista Charter School students, a plan to improve healthy lifestyle options in the two communities is now in the works.
During the month of September, 20 photographers from Montrose, Olathe and the Vista Charter School set out and explored their communities with a camera and took photographs related to healthy and active living. The project is called PhotoVoice and is a program associated with the nonprofit LiveWell Montrose Olathe. The photographs will assist in defining strategies for the next three years of LiveWell Montrose Olathe in an effort to lead residents to a healthier lifestyle.
The images they captured on film reflect issues that affect often affect the well being of residents and include images that cover issues such as safety related to physical activity, having safe recreational facilities, active transportation options, and having access to locally produced, healthy food. At a brainstorming event in Montrose last month those photographs were on display and were used to begin the process of drafting a plan to make healthy lifestyle improvements in the communities.
“The biggest impression I had on the evening is that it was really spent on looking at the assets these communities have rather than the deficits they have,” said LiveWell Montrose Olathe Coordinator Cathy Romaniello. “That’s strategically different and important to the planning process and I believe Montrose and Olathe have tremendous assets in people’s energy and commitment to the well being of our communities.”
Several photos on display indicated a willingness by residents to be active by walking and/or biking to work or school but because of infrastructure issues that need attention, doing so isn’t always easy.
A photograph taken by Montrose resident Sara Ungrodt shows a location in Montrose where a sidewalk ends yet a mother pushing a stroller continues to walk along side the road. Ungrodt said her daughter didn’t want to take the bus but would have to ride her bike through the non-sidewalk area against traffic.
“With the cars coming, I was living in fear,” Ungrodt said.
Another photo, taken by Montrose resident Selenna King, shows a local senior trying to walk down a buckled sidewalk in Montrose.
“A step away from a broken hip!” King’s photo caption states.
“Our elderly are supposed to be able to get out more,” King said. “These are thing things that make it difficult to do.”
Others who participated in the photojournalism project chose to take photos highlighting transportation options, such as biking, if it were easier to do. A photo taken by Olathe resident Julie Barton shows a bicyclist cruising downtown Montrose through empty parking spaces that she believes could be turned into bike lanes.
“Montrose has all these parking spaces yet nobody parks in them,” Barton said. By replacing seldom-used parking spaces with bike lanes, she added that it would not only encourage people to ride their bike to work more but would also “send a message that Montrose cares about their community and their health.”
For other photographers in the project, the idea of having access to locally produced, healthy food was a topic. A photo taken by Montrose’s Abby Padilla shows corn growing along a residential fence line in Montrose. Padilla said the photo shows how simple it is to grow food in small places that can be seen as decorative.
“It’s an edible landscaping,” Padilla said. “You can use a very small amount of space to grow anything. It’s something anybody can do and can get access to food.”
Olathe’s Bobbi Sale snapped a photo of the ground below a group of apple trees. It’s covered in rotting apples that will go to waste. She said the photo is intended to show that the Uncompahgre Valley is really fertile and can produce an abundant amount of food yet much of it goes to waste.
“This is taken near a farm that used to be an orchard,” Sale said. “These are the apples from five trees and it could feed a lot of people. It’s just five trees.”
Following a presentation of the photos, the photographers, residents and community leaders discussed the implications of each of the photos and then brainstormed what impact the photos should have on building a plan to make Montrose and Olathe healthier and more active.
“All of the groups came up with recommendations and they were recorded,” Romaniello said. “All of this data is going back to Denver with Sage Health Consulting and they are going to put together a final report and will have that to us by the end of the calendar year. It will be one of the key pieces that will drive our planning.”
PhotoVoice is only one aspect that will be used to eventually create a strategic plan. The LiveWell Montrose Olathe coalition also will go out into the community with surveys, they'll be talking with key agencies and organizations, and taking any other input that comes their way.
That information will then be compiled and the coalition will develop a community strategic plan. That development should start by mid-January 2013, she said. A draft plan will then be submitted to LiveWell Colorado by mid-March, and if successful, LiveWell Montrose Olathe could be awarded three years of funding to implement its plan.
For more information on LiveWell Colorado and the coalition’s efforts, visit about.livewellcolorado.org/livewell-montrose-olathe.