National Walking Summit – St. Paul, MN September 12 – 15, 2017
I attended the National Walking Summit in St. Paul, MN September 12th-15th. First of all, I was able to attend the summit thanks to the travel scholarship opportunity that the National Physical Activity Society provided. I am the Executive Director for a health and wellness coalition in Kansas called Live Well Crawford County. We are operationally dependent upon grants, and travel opportunities are limited, or non-existent, for attending conferences such as the National Walking Summit. Without the travel scholarship opportunity, I would not have been able to attend this conference, and with the work Live Well Crawford County has done, and continues to pursue, feel like I would have missed out on an incredible learning opportunity had I not attended. Not only am I extremely humble and grateful for the travel scholarship opportunity, the Live Well Crawford County coalition is extremely grateful as well for me to bring back new knowledge, ideas, and contacts to help in the development of our active living efforts.
The Placemaking and Design Training was an outstanding workshop which I attended on the first day. It was a great way to start the summit for me. In Crawford County, we have a lot of cultural history, and effort to preserve that history is constant. Placemaking is not a term that I had heard before attending the summit. And what I learned in regard to placemaking (a vibrant space that people want to go to, a space that connects places and people, development of a place in MANY ways to be used for more than one activity by activating or reactivating the space), I was able to make great confections with opportunities in Crawford County where we can use our cultural history and preservation of that history to create spaces that attract people and make it an enjoyable place for all. The four attributes to a great place are that it is accessible and well connected to other important places, comfortable and project a good image, attract people to participate in activities there, and sociable environments that people want to go to again and again. Pittsburg, KS has some great amenities, however, the connectivity is lacking as we have neglected our sidewalks for decades. We have placed efforts on establishing important locations in town with a mapping grid of a preferred walking and biking route to connect these important places. We are now focused on the physical improvement and connectivity of our sidewalks to these locations.
The Greenway Trails Tour also was very educational and beneficial as Live Well Crawford County is currently in the process of developing a walking/jogging/biking trail. The trail would span along a abandoned rail bed for a 5.5 mile distance and would connect two of our communities in Crawford County. We do have a challenge of a major highway that intersects the trail and poses a major safety issue. Seeing the Charlton Street underpass and the Highway 110 underpass gave some much needed information and perspective on how we can solve our issue in our trail development. The underpass would allow pedestrians, either by foot or by bicycle, to pass under that major highway and provide a SAFE connectivity into the city of Pittsburg.
The Walking Report Card I think will be a fantastic resource that Live Well Crawford County can use to help grade the county health statistics that we have available. Overall, Crawford County ranks as one of the lowest in all of Kansas in overall health outcomes, and is so due to a high percentage of physical inactivity and poor eating habits. The Walking Report Card is a resource that we will be able to implement and use in our work for increasing physical activity.
Walking in Rural Communities was a session that really applied to the kind of communities that we have in Crawford County. Advisory shoulders and/or pedestrian lanes are a great implementation that we could do in Crawford County as we are working to repair or implement new sidewalks. But as funding for sidewalks, much like anywhere, is minimal, I think implementing advisory shoulders or pedestrian lanes could work extremely well on many of our streets. ADA compliancy is something that we have had a recent workshop on, and was able to point out challenges that most people do not understand exist. One point from speaker Billy Altom that I found very true, was the point that anyone can become reliant on accessibility in the matter of seconds. Anyone would want everything to be accessible if you were reliant upon it, so why not build things that way the first time? Also, including a person with disabilities in the initial discussion of projects was very productive and important. Pam Eidson’s point of emphasis on getting feedback from residents is crucial. All too often, plans are made with the vision of one person or a small group of people that think they know what everyone wants. And the project fails b/c it was solely the view of a few. Going back to the point of placemaking, a great place is one that everyone wants to go to. Bikonomics was also a great term that will be used as we develop our trail.
The rural and tribal walkability session turned out to be very relative to Pittsburg. Batesville, AR was a place that underwent many changes and improvements, and Batesville is very relative to Pittsburg. Pittsburg has a historic downtown, and there is a group dedicated to preserving the history while adding beauty back to it. The Batesville story is a great story to share with the Downtown Advisory Board here in Pittsburg.
Creating Walkable Communities one PLAYce at a time session really turned me onto some ideas for our local schools and some opportunity to apply their artistic talents to put to good use. We have lots of buildings with poor demeanor on sidewalls that could have murals painted on them, or schools with a large case of cement steps that could possibly have a mascot muralized on to create some visual stimulation. Pittsburg has also talked about putting up some covered stops at the public transportation stops around the city and really enjoyed the bus stop puzzles and the one feet/two feet exercises.
All in all, the National Walking Summit was such an inspiration and a motivating tool. Attending the summit and hearing all the outstanding ideas that people are doing or have done really energizes your batteries and inspires you to get back home and start working to incorporate the new information you have and have learned.
Live Well Crawford County