Community members met in Fairmont Thursday to discuss the results of a Health Impact Assessment survey that asked residents how they like to get around town. The survey is part of a plan to connect the neighborhoods in Fairmont and make it more accessible to people walking and biking.

Right now it's not very common for people to walk or bike downtown, but more than half of the people surveyed said they would walk or bike downtown if the obstacles currently in their way were taken care of. Some common complaints from residents are that: there aren't sidewalks connecting neighborhoods, or there could be dangerous intersection without crosswalks. The perception of crime in certain areas could deter some walkers, and some people just aren't attracted to the businesses and events in downtown. Surveyors from WVU's School of Public Health said more walking or biking in a community would help to bring down the risk of obesity and other chronic diseases but it also brings a positive economic impact.

"There's a lot of advantages health-wise to that, but also in the broader picture, it helps economic development. So if you get people buzzing about things that are downtown, they're walking and they're biking and purchasing things at their local restaurants, at their local businesses, and then you're really building up the local part of this," said Tom Bias of the School for Public Health.

This Health Impact Assessment is the first funded assessment in the state. It's sponsored by the Association for State and Territorial Health Officials and the Center for Disease Control and is meant to help the city evaluate the costs and effects of implementing a connectivity plan. The full connectivity plan by Thrasher Engineering will be unveiled on the 17th.

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