City showcases focus on promoting healthy lifestyles

Harlingen vies for its second All-America City Award

Harlingen city limits

HARLINGEN — Community leaders Wednesday showcased the city’s focus on promoting healthy living as they set their sights on taking home Harlingen’s second All-America City Award.

At the Harlingen Convention Center, they staged a 10-minute presentation, highlighting the Rio Grande Valley’s most extensive parks system, programs launched under the Mayor’s Wellness Council and Healthy Harlingen and a growing roster of sporting events such as the Harlingen Marathon.

The Rio Grande Valley’s sole competitor is one of 18 finalists vying for the coveted award it first won in 1992.

Across the state, El Paso stands as the city’s only Texas rival in the competition which live-streamed its contestants’ presentations.

Last night, the National Civic League was expected to announce its 10 winners from across the country.

This year, the contest’s theme, “Enhancing health and well-being through civic engagement,” mirrors Harlingen’s commitment to help residents live healthy lives.

“ The 2020 All-America City Award is focused on celebrating examples of civic engagement practices that advance health and well-being in local communities,” the Civic League states on its website.

“ We are looking for projects that demonstrate inclusive decision-making processes to enhance health and well-being for all and particularly for populations currently experiencing poorer health outcomes.”

Parks system

Decades ago, city leaders laid the foundation to help lead residents to healthier lives.

With more than 500 acres of public park land, Harlingen leads other Rio Grande Valley cities in green spaces from which to field sports teams and draw family outings.

By the mid 1990s, city officials had paved the first stretch of the Arroyo Hike and Bike Trail.

Mayor’s Wellness Council

Then five years ago, community leaders launched one of Texas’ first Mayor’s Wellness Councils, turning it into a springboard for a series of programs.

Soon, the Wellness Council spawned Healthy Harlingen to combat one of the state’s highest rates of diabetes, obesity and hypertension.

In Harlingen, 80 percent of residents are obese or over-weight, conditions that can lead to diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, the city’s website states.

Now, Healthy Harlingen continues to work to expand the city’s trail system, now boasting 17.4 miles of winding walkways.

Today, the city’s parks feature a total of five “all-inclusive playgrounds,” designed to allow children, including those with special needs, to play — and exercise — together.

For three years, the community has pulled together to win the competition “It’s time Texas Community Challenge” in its division.

Now, sporting events such as the Harlingen Marathon, the Junior League’s South Texas Sizzler races and the Jalapeno 100 Bike Ride draw hundreds of participants.

fdelvalle@valleystar.com