Gov. Jack Markell's Council on Health Promotion and Disease Prevention named Middletown as the state’s only gold-level Healthy Community last week.

Middletown is setting the gold standard for healthy communities in Delaware.

Just ask Gov. Jack Markell’s Council on Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, which last week named Middletown as its top-ranked healthy community out of seven municipalities that applied for recognition through its inaugural Community Health Recognition Program.

“Middletown has really set itself apart from what other communities in the state are doing, particularly when it comes to connecting residential areas with other population centers through parks and trails,” said Rich Killingsworth, the chief of the health promotion and disease prevention section of Delaware’s Division of Public Health. “That takes a long-term vision that has to play out over several years and I think more and more people are moving to Middletown not just for what it has now, but for what it’s planning for in the future.”

Middletown’s gold-level recognition beat out silver-level winner Seaford, bronze-level winners Newark, New Castle and Wilmington, as well as other towns like Bethany Beach and Dover, which each received honorable mention.

The rankings were determined by a council subcommittee that scored each municipality’s application based on their respective use of planning, partnerships and programs to encourage healthy environments and improved physical activity, while also integrating the needs of people with disabilities in neighborhoods, schools and workplaces.

“It’s exciting and a real honor to be recognized in this way,” said Middletown public relations officer Kristen Krenzer, who authored the town’s application. “The mayor and town council strive to make Middletown a healthy community and come up with way to make our residents happy, and these days people are happiest when they’re also at their healthiest.”

Middletown, in particular, was recognized for the planning that fostered the incorporation of walking and biking trails, as well as parks and playgrounds, into the neighborhoods that sprang up during the booming growth the town has experienced over the last 15 years.

“Interconnectivity is a big buzzword here at town hall and with all the development that has come before the town, we’ve always tried to keep walking and biking in mind,” Krenzer said. “The mayor and several council members ride bikes and their attention to that need is part of the reason you can bike from Lakeside on the east side of town to Walmart on the west side.”

The Council on Health Promotion and Disease Prevention also recognized Middletown for its creation of the 100-acre Charles Price Park off Levels Road in 2007.

The 100-acre passive park is open from sunrise to sunset seven days a week and features large open fields, nine community pavilions, three miles of walking and biking trails, an 8-acre catch-and-release fishing pond stocked with trout and a large dog park that has become so popular with local residents that it has its own Facebook group and occasionally hosts date nights for dog owners.

Community partnerships in Middletown that promote healthy lifestyles also were highlighted by the council, including the town’s wide array of youth sports organizations, community initiatives in the Appoquinimink School District and the cooperation between the town and the M.O.T. Jean Birch Senior Center  on South Scott Street.

“I think the town has done a great job recognizing the needs of its aging population and the fact that this is popular place for seniors to move,” said Ceil Rozumalski, the executive director of the senior center, where the town and the Middletown Police Department each host annual picnics. “That includes supporting things like outdoor activities and health education initiatives, as well as working to attract medical facilities that address the critical needs of the town’s senior population.”

Krenzer said credit for the recent honor from governor’s the Council on Health Promotion and Disease Prevention belongs as much to Middletown’s residents as it does to town officials.

“These are the things our residents have told us they want in their town,” she said. “We’re just as fortunate to have a community vocal enough to demand these amenities as we are to have a mayor and council who have shown they’re willing to provide them.”