Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 22, 2011

By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — Salisbury has won another designation as a Fit Community, the only city in the state to earn the gold level award this year.
After completing an extensive review process including a 90-page application, the city earned the designation from the N.C. Physical Activity and Nutrition Branch of the N.C. Division of Public Health.
Fit Community designations recognize North Carolina communities that excel in supporting physical activity, healthy eating and tobacco-free programs, policies, environments and lifestyles.
Salisbury is one of three Fit Communities for 2011-2014 and the only gold designee, said Amy Smith of the Rowan County Health Department at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Smith serves as chairwoman of the Salisbury Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.
In the history of the state-sponsored program, only Salisbury, Cary and Mecklenburg County have achieved gold-level status. Cary and Mecklenburg County were gold Fit Communities for 2010-13.
“This is incredible,” Mayor Pro Tem Susan Kluttz said Tuesday at the City Council meeting. “Look at Cary and Mecklenburg and their size and resources.”
Salisbury’s ability to reach the same high standards “shows that we continue to be a leader in the state and can do things as well as any other community,” Kluttz said.
Designations are awarded at bronze, silver, gold and platinum levels. No community has been awarded a platinum-level designation.
Salisbury won in part for the city’s collaboration with other agencies and partners in the pursuit of healthy living initiatives, including the health department, Rowan-Salisbury Schools, Rowan Regional Medical Center, Food Lion and Partners in Learning, said Elaney Katsafanas Hasselmann, public information officer for the city.
In all, the state has named 39 cities and counties as Fit Communities. Of those, Salisbury is one of three scheduled to be profiled in a national case study that will go to health and wellness policy makers in January, Hasselmann said.
Salisbury is one of the last award recipients in the Fit Community program, which will end in 2012 due to lack of funding,
“We’re hoping they can bring it back,” Hasselmann said.
Salisbury was previously designated a Fit Community for 2007-10.
Parks and Recreation and Community Planning staff led efforts earlier in the year to complete the competitive application process with help from partner organizations.
Feedback provided by Fit Community project managers indicates Salisbury excels in the areas of tobacco prevention, long-range planning, program offerings and the promotion of park, recreation and obesity prevention opportunities.
The development and support of policy initiatives that encourage healthy eating, active lifestyles and preservation of agricultural lands and resources were identified as items of consideration for future planning efforts.
“Designation as a Gold Level Fit Community further exemplifies the outstanding efforts by our community, through grassroots efforts and partnerships, to support and encourage healthy lifestyles,” Salisbury Parks and Recreation Director Gail Elder White said in a press release.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.