CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (AP) — Once dubbed America's fattest city, Corpus Christi is now taking small steps to trim its collective waistline.
The Corpus Christi Caller Times reported (http://bit.ly/1g4Viui) Sunday that new gyms and fitness facilities have opened locally, as have new farmers markets. Fun runs have grown in popularity.
In 2010, Men's Health magazine dubbed the city "Corpulent Christi" and designated it the fattest city in the country.
Type 2 diabetes rates are still double the national average. Four in 10 people locally are obese. Corpus is also the birthplace of Whataburger, and has more fast-food restaurants per capita than the national average.
Meanwhile, the city long lagged behind others in building bike and walking paths. More than half of the 224 miles of streets studied by the city had no sidewalks or featured ones that were uneven or broken enough to be unusable.
Several high-profile efforts to battle the bulge have fallen short. Still, there are signs of change. In addition to the new workout spaces, the Corpus Christi running club that tracks local races noted just 28 in the Coastal Bend area in 2003, but has counted 60 so far this year.
"It's like turning the Titanic," said Stacie Talbert, assistant director for the Corpus Christi Parks and Recreation department. "It takes a long time."
While anecdotal evidence seems to suggest the city is getting healthier, however, finding statistical proof of improvement is difficult. As recently as two years ago, local business leaders overwhelmingly said in surveys that they'd like employees to bike or walk to work — but that they didn't think it was safe to do so.
More than 900 cyclists and pedestrians have been struck by cars in the past seven years, according to Texas Department of Public Transportation data.
The City Council's goal is by 2014 is to have 33 miles of bike and pedestrian paths, 60 miles of roads with bike lanes and 24 community gardens. Also, three of the city's 13 community centers hope to be serving some form of local produce by next year.
Local officials say they are close to meeting all of the goals. Since 2011, officials have added 9 miles of trails and 12.5 miles of bike lanes, bringing the total to 27 miles of trails and 58 miles of lanes.
Last month, the council hosted its first 5-kilometer race to raise cash to continue its effort. The group marketed the event as a 5K for first-timers — but the response was initially underwhelming.
The race eventually attracted 93 paid participants, though, enough to cover the cost of the race and generate more than $1,000 in net revenue.
Information from: Corpus Christi Caller-Times, http://www.caller.com