During the week of March 12-16, America Walks’ Ian Thomas and Walk2Connect’s Dustin Ratcliff facilitated three WALKshops in different parts of Maryland. Contracted by the Maryland Department of Health to assist nine local public health agencies develop collaborative community plans to increase walking and expand walkability, Ian and Dustin held pre-WALKshop conference calls with the public health leads to help them recruit partners from planning, parks and rec., transportation, elected offices, and community advocacy.
More than forty people attended the Eastern Shore WALKshop in Salisbury, MD on March 12, which was opened by Salisbury Mayor Jake Day, a leader in the national Smart Growth Mayors movement. Teams from each of five counties (Caroline, Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester) received targeted presentations on connection-focused walking programs and pedestrian safety strategies and participated in asset-mapping, goal-setting, and strategic planning activities. A similar format was used for the Western Maryland WALKshop (Hagerstown, MD on March 14), but with specific content designed for the Allegany, Garrett, and Washington County teams, and 2017 Walking College Fellows Adriana Hochberg and Garrett Brumfield served as guest speakers and walk audit leaders. The final WALKshop (Baltimore City on March 16) had a somewhat different agenda, which included “creating a safe space to talk about the real issues” of personal safety, racial profiling by police, and gentrification of certain areas.
All nine teams left the WALKshops with new/stronger partnerships, better understanding of the strategies for creating safe, walkable places, and outlines for their Community Walking and Walkability Plans. Ian and Dustin will hold one more conference call with each team provide feedback on the first drafts of their plans and guidance for next steps.