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The Bakersfield Blue Zones Project holds first community summit on city improvement

Blue Zones Project Director Kiyoshi Tomono says there will be two more summits this year to gather community feedback and refine their city improvement plan.
blue zones project summit
Posted at 6:06 PM, Jan 24, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-24 22:14:06-05

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — The Blue Zones Project, announced back in September 2023, is coming to Bakersfield. The goal of the project is to improve the overall wellbeing of the community. On Tuesday, January 24, the organization held its first summit to discuss what improvements could be made for the city and its residents.

"The focus of today was, some of it was really around built environment, which is the things that we are surrounded by everyday in our community, crosswalks, and parks," said Blue Zones Project Executive Director Kiyoshi Tomono.

Tomono says the focus of Tuesday's summit was discussing how they can improve the city, and getting feedback from the community.

"Most important part was getting the community's input, because Blue Zones Project is about bringing potential solutions," said Tomono, "but it's not going to happen to a community, it's going to happen with the community, so we need to know what kind of resources we have and whether there's an appetite for those changes."

Tomono says they have what they call a discovery report, which will have recommendations for city improvements. Last year, the project invited urban planner and built environment expert Chris Danley to Bakersfield to evaluate potential changes.

"The park areas are a part of our focus because they are a social activity site, and they are also a place where physical activity takes place, so by default they end up being part of our focus," said Danley.

Steph Thisius-Sanders, Planning and Construction Director for North of the River Recreation and Park District, says the district will work with the city and Blue Zone on policies and jurisdictions for parks and recreations.

"Yes, we want to see more park improvements. Yes, we want to see something happening at a policy level where we are planting more trees. That's what this project is about," said Thisius-Sanders.

Tomono says there will be two more summits this year to gather data and feedback, as well as to create a blueprint for how the project will proceed.

"That blueprint will be reviewed with the Steering Committee and the community, again, at large to kind of continue and hone and kind of refine it so it becomes something that we can do," said Tomono.

Tomono says the Blue Zones Project hopes to have all the proposed improvements for the city completed in 5 years.