MARQUETTE - Green living and beer drinking will come together tonight as one event in a series called "ForwardDrinking," sponsored by the Michigan Environmental Council, in collaboration with Michigan Energy Options.
Andy McGlashen, development associate for MEC, said the series is meant to help local communities discuss environmental problems that impact them directly.
"We want to get out into the community ... to figure out what environmental topics are on people's minds there and get a panel of local experts to discuss them, with plenty of time for the audience to react," McGlashen said. "And fall and winter are a good time to be in a warm pub with friends."
Because MEC is located in Lansing and primarily works with the legislature on environmental issues, McGlashen said the agency doesn't get to spend a lot of time working on a community level.
"Our organization tends to work mostly in Lansing, at the legislature, in the capital, in state agencies," he said. "It's good for us to get out of that every once in a while and see what people in communities around Michigan are saying."
In today's Marquette portion of the statewide series, making the area safer for pedestrians and bikers will be the main focus.
George Sedlacek, community health division director for the Marquette County Health Department, will be one of the panel members. Mostly, Sedlacek will discuss how building safer walking and biking routes to local schools could have lasting health impacts, as he sees the rise in kids being driven to school a major factor in increasing childhood obesity.
"I'm involved in (the series) for the health reasons," he said. "People are arguing about health care issues and all they're arguing about is how to pay for it. Few people are talking about how to reduce the ultimate need for it.
"People don't exercise for many reasons, and one is environmental barriers," Sedlacek added.
Those environmental barriers don't just mean snowy weather. They can also be narrow roads, streets without sidewalks or roads with no bike lane and little room to add one.
This is where complete streets projects come in. The goal is to make new and existing roads safer for all modes of transportation. This is especially important when looking at new construction, as it is much simpler to build a complete street than it is to try and renovate an already existing one, Sedlacek said.
Complete streets projects will also be a major discussion point during the forum.
"In Marquette, they already have an extensive bike system, but they still need to look at connectors, at how to make sure that people can get from the neighborhoods they live in to the bike path safely," Sedlacek said.
The event is at 8 p.m. at The Vierling in downtown Marquette and is free and open to the public.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.