Open Streets program has goal to connect community through fun

 

DOVER — The Restoring Central Dover initiative will be taking it to the streets of downtown Dover this summer in hopes of getting people active and bringing the community together.

The first of six events planned for Dover’s first Open Streets program is set to take place on Saturday, April 21, from noon until 3 p.m. on the corner of Governors Avenue, Cecil and Mary streets.

Dr. Chanda Jackson-Short, community engagement specialist for NCALL Research, which backs Restoring Central Dover, said she is excited about Open Streets coming to the state capital.

“I think what I’m looking forward to the most is a diverse group of people coming out and enjoying the activities together,” she said. “I’m looking forward to a family-friendly fun time.”

There are all sorts of activities planned for the initiative, including: Zumba, soul line dancing, a bike rodeo, a 5K color walk/run, a community garden, face painting, life size games, yoga, basketball, cornhole, cooking demonstrations, healthy foods, double-dutch, hula hoop competitions, and more.

The idea is to get people active — and bring them together at the same time.

“Open Streets are evidence-based programs that temporarily open streets to people by closing them to cars,” Dr. Short said. “By doing this, the streets become places where people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds can come out and improve their health, promoting the use of public streets for recreation and leisure-time activities.

“In addition, along the Open Streets route, there are established activity hubs, designed to engage participants in healthy activities and help engage them to continue along the Open Streets route to get to the next activity hub.”

She added, “The programs are designed to engage residents in physical activity and promote access to community services and supports.”

The first Open Streets event in Dover will be held in collaboration with the Community Garden Spring Festival.

Open Streets programs are planned to be held each month through October at various locations throughout the downtown area.

Open Streets is a program that has taken place in 880 cities throughout the country, with Wilmington being the only city in Delaware thus far that has implemented it.

Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki had high hopes for Open Streets when the city started its’ program last fall.

“This is a way for the public to creatively self-invest in our public places,” he said. “Open Streets enables citizens to fully appreciate how special and majestic this part of the city is — and with that appreciation comes the hope that people will fall in love with Wilmington all over again.”

Dr. Short thinks the same kind of blueprint also will work well in the city of Dover.

“We have a number of entities involved with the Open Streets program, including the city of Dover Police Department, Dover Parks and Recreation and the Dover Public Library,” she said. “We also welcome more entities if any are interested in getting involved and are also looking for volunteers to assist during the events.”

Restoring Central Dover had previously held impromptu “play days” in areas downtown, but Dr. Short thinks the Open Streets program will help take it to a different level.

“For the past couple of years, Restoring Central Dover’s Community Engagement Work Group hosted a modified version of play streets on various streets in the Restoring Central Dover area, and because of that, we thought what a great way to expand the efforts,” she said.

“We are looking to implement six Open Streets events (in Dover this year) and if successful, we will be looking for ways to make the program more sustainable for years to come.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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