■ By Debbie Vena / Reporter
The third phase in the San Jacinto Downtown Specific Plan development process launched Jan. 5 with a gathering of community service providers at a public meeting at Valley-Wide Park & Recreation District offices on Esplanade Avenue. Organizations such as San Jacinto Rotary, San Jacinto Unified School District, Riverside County Public Health and Department of Social Services, Healthy Cities Network, Inland Empire Health Plan, and volunteers from the Conservation Corps provided valuable input into the San Jacinto General Plan Health Element first workshop.
“I was pleased to see a broad representation of civic organizations attend the Healthy San Jacinto Coalition meeting as they serve thousands of San Jacinto residents and business owners,” said meeting facilitator Gail Carson of Carlson & Associates, a community improvement and grant writing consultant working on behalf of the city of San Jacinto. “I would like to see more individual community members and business owners attend events such as this. The process of developing the city’s General Plan Health Element and the Downtown Specific Plan has a direct impact on improving the quality of their lives and the future of this community.”
The meeting generated a lot of ideas and comments, and of great concern was the current situation at local community hospitals and dealing with the mental health and well being of area residents. The safety of local emergency room workers who deal with overflow patients from the county health system was mentioned. Considering this is where local law enforcement brings many of the homeless in an attempt to keep our communities safe for all residents, it sparked a great many comments from attendees.
Health-oriented public policy is managed in different forms across the state in California’s diverse communities. Unique in their approach, San Jacinto has chosen to use the strategy of crafting a separate health element for their general plan. A separate health element can bring special importance and visibility to a community’s overall health-related goals.
Health priorities covered in these workshops may focus on affordable housing, local economic development, violence prevention and easier access to healthy fruits and vegetables using EBT payments at local farmers markets. Allowing low-income residents to participate in farmer’s markets is a sustainable way to support local agriculture in our farming community rather than importing through national supermarket vendors. Considering the agricultural history in the valley and the current precarious state of the Delta regions farm issue, keeping locally owned farms economically sustainable is paramount.
“Never let technology stop you from exploring the wonders of the outdoors,” said Edgar Garcia, who, as the youngest person to participate in the workshop, was referring to more than just the city-wide bike trails and walking paths that are already part of the discussion.
Garcia spoke about just spending time in nature and providing better community access for hiking in the hills and rural areas close to MSJC. Garcia, passionate in his reminder of the healing nature found in the natural beauty of the valley, hopes to bring focus on preserving and promoting the often overlooked natural local resources. Just last month, MSJC, in collaboration with Green Coalition, installed the first of several bike racks on the community college campus to encourage non-motorized transportation options.
The Healthy San Jacinto Coalition is a component of the City of San Jacinto’s Downtown Specific Plan (DTSP) project, which is funded by the Strategic Growth Council. The Coalition’s purpose is to help build local capacity and stakeholder participation during the development of the DTSP and General Plan Health Element efforts. Western Riverside Council of Governments BEYOND Program provides matching funds.