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David Freeze: New signs show importance of running to city of Salisbury

SALISBURY — The long awaited first sign denoting how much running means to Salisbury was in place by Wednesday afternoon on North Main Street. 

The Runner-Friendly Community sign was placed just beneath the city’s welcome sign. Other main entrances will soon have the same sign in place.

The city is one of 53 nationwide receiving the designation. The Salisbury Rowan Runners and the city applied for it in late 2018 with the Road Runners Club of America, a nationwide organization representing more than 1,200 running clubs. 

Road Runners reviewed three primary segments: community infrastructure, community support and local government support. Applicants had to prove that their community works together to promote running as healthy exercise for residents while ensuring runners’ safety. 

A Runner-Friendly Community must prove it has an infrastructure that can foster physical activity in a safe environment. A network of sidewalks, trails and paths that allows a runner to complete 3 to 10 miles of distance without running in the road is required. At least one open running track is required as well as available restrooms in important areas. Year-round maintenance on running surfaces is also a must. 

Salisbury Parks and Recreation Director Nick Aceves said the Runner-Friendly Community designation illustrates the city’s commitment to keeping runners safe, providing continuous and adequate places to run, and partnering with local businesses for running events. 

“The Parks and Recreation Department continues to work with organizations like the Salisbury Rowan Runners, the YMCA and Healthy Rowan to increase health and wellness opportunities for the residents of Salisbury and Rowan County,” Aceves said.

As part of the government requirement, a positive relationship between the running community and local government had to be in place. Safe and desirable race courses and a reasonable permitting process were important, as well as liability insurance.  

Law enforcement had to be seen as a positive partner in event planning. Officers are expected to support pedestrian rights and address complaints about pedestrian safety, including monitoring dangerous intersections.        

Salisbury City Councilman David Post said he is glad the city is making a concentrated effort to be an active community.

“Active defines us as a city. Salisbury is runnable, walkable and becoming more bike friendly,” Post said. “We have a very knowledgeable Parks and Recreation Department and other organizations, like Healthy Rowan, Girls on the Run, the Pedal Factory and opportunities for tennis, pickleball, walking groups and so much more. These assets help the city attract young adults and keep kids off the street.”

Councilman Brian Miller added that Salisbury has an active running community and that he hopes to leverage the recognition to encourage interest and “investment in the infrastructure that supports this community, such as the greenway expansion.”

Other nomination criteria that were strong points for Salisbury and the surrounding area included:

• Youth running programs (track, cross country, youth clubs) are in place in area schools or hosted through a local running club. Healthy Rowan and the Daily Mile program were highlights.

• The community should have a promotion outreach plan that includes information about local running clubs and wellness programs. 

• A trail/path system has mile markers, directional signs, and maps on the course. Salisbury Community Park and the Salisbury Greenway were strong points here. 

• Some of the trails and paths provide a soft surface in addition to paved surface.

• Local community involved with volunteerism at running events. Civic clubs, churches and other organizations provided key support. 

• Community has an indoor running facility, with one available at the Hurley YMCA. 

• Local media supports and promotes running activities by promoting upcoming races and race results. Local media also support runners’ safety by including safety tips in reports about running. The Salisbury Post and others met this requirement. 

Local business involvement was a factor as well. Salisbury hosts 15 to 18 races and events a year on city streets and at Salisbury Community Park with more than 50 local businesses supporting them. 

Steve Clark, a longtime Parks and Recreation staff member and Salisbury Rowan Runners vice president, said he is especially excited to see the first Runner Friendly Community sign installed.

“As part of the committee that prepared the application for RRCA consideration, I already knew that Salisbury has much to offer as an active community,” Clark said. “The application process was rigorous, but as we checked nearly every box, I felt more confident of recognition. We have made great progress during my years of involvement, and this distinction publicizes another Salisbury strong point. This was a total team effort involving city staff, community leaders and local businesses.”

Other cities awarded the Runner Friendly Community designation for the class of 2018-2023 include Allentown, Pennsylvania; Carrollton, Georgia; Cleveland, Tennessee; Dayton, Ohio; Georgetown, Texas; Mesa, Arizona; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Grapevine, Texas; Kalamazoo, Michigan; and Peachtree City, Georgia.  

For more information on Runner Friendly Communities, go to rrca.org/our-programs-services/programs/runner-friendly-community

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