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America Walks Announces 19 Community Change Grantees

America Walks is pleased to announce the recipients of our Community Change Grant program. The organization has selected 19 communities from over 400 applications that will receive funding and work with the organization throughout 2020. The program, now in its fifth year and supported by organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control, Lyft, the National Center on Health, Physical Activity, and Disability (NCHPAD), Oregon Walks, and WalkBoston, provides funds that support grassroots efforts aimed at creating safe, accessible, and enjoyable places to walk and move.

“At a time when pedestrian fatalities are at an all-time high and communities continue to try and find ways to be healthy, these grants provide support to those doing the hard, inspiring work at the local level,” said Executive Director Kate Kraft. “We are excited to work with these communities and use their efforts and stories to encourage other walking champions.”

Meet this year’s grantees in their own words below:

Central Arkansas Library System Foundation, Little Rock, AR: CALS will install a permanent story walk at the Children’s Library and Learning Center. Book pages will be placed in display signs along an existing trail. Patrons will be invited to follow the path of pages. Staff will be able to rotate the story displayed. Mile markers will be placed on each sign allowing participants to measure the distance walked. Programs will take place to promote the use of the trail. The story walk will include literature focused on health, wellness, and fitness.

City of Rancho Cucamonga, Rancho Cucamonga, CA: The City of Rancho Cucamonga’s health initiative, Healthy RC, will partner with a local artist and Rancho Cucamonga Middle School (RCMS), to design and paint compassion-themed, interactive sidewalk messages surrounding the school. Our goal is to make the walk to school more vibrant while also encouraging compassion among students and residents alike. The art pieces will also act as eighth-mile markers to challenge students to be mindful about their walk to school and motivate them to keep walking daily. Since bullying is an issue, we believe this project will develop an attitude of compassion and positivity for students to bring to their campus each morning and home each afternoon. Healthy RC will organize a Compassionate Walk Kick-off Day, during which RCMS students will walk to school, enjoy the new sidewalk art, and take note of how far they walk!

Florida State University- Transportation and Parking Services, Tallahassee, FL: This project will increase walking and promote health and wellness on FSU’s campus and the surrounding areas of Tallahassee. FSU Transportation and Parking Services will use inexpensive branded wayfinding signage created through the organization, Walk [Your City]. This directional street signage will help educate people on how long it will take for them to walk from their exact location to a desired destination. The signage will have a simple saying such as, “it is a five minute walk to a coffee shop”, an arrow and QR code that will have step-by-step instructions to the specific destination. We will strategically place these signs and measure success through pedestrian counts pre-project and post-project. Throughout this project, we will collaborate with the City of Tallahassee and several on-campus organizations to ensure high levels of public participation throughout the entirety of the project. With proven success, this project will help ensure funding is allocated for permanent wayfinding signage.

Pet Partners of IL, Chicago, IL: With the support of America Walks, Pet Partners of Illinois will hold 4 events in Chicago in 2020 to motivate people from underserved communities to walk with pets. Inclement weather and lack of safe passage ways in Chicago can make it difficult for young people, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities to walk outside consistently. Walking daily can increase cardiovascular fitness and reduce risk of heart disease and stroke. Research has found that people who walk with an animal are more likely to meet physical activity recommendations. By creating 4 indoor walking events, Pet Partners will give attendees an opportunity to be physically active despite these challenges.

Pet Partners of Illinois will secure indoor walking locations for these events. We will promote our “walk with a therapy animal” event to facilities, like nursing homes and community centers; this motivates community members to participate. These events will include a presentation on the benefits of walking with animals and winter weather walking tips, as well as a group indoor walk with therapy animals, so each attendee can understand benefits of walking daily. Beyond the day-of event, we will provide resources on how to be active, with or without a pet.

Special Olympics Kansas, Mission, KS: Special Olympics Kansas and the City of Mission will create ongoing programming to highlight trails and promote usage for athletes and the community. Events will be scheduled to engage athletes and the entire community. These events will highlight resources available to all. Also, athletes participating in the Outdoor Skills program will be encouraged to use the trails on a regular basis for fitness and connectivity. This project will promote inclusion by not just focusing on individuals with intellectual disabilities but by also partnering with individuals without disabilities to promote walking and trail usage.

Lewisburg Neighborhood Group, Covington, KY: Lewisburg, a neighborhood within Covington, KY, is currently working on a project to create/install lending library boxes to encourage literacy among youth and adults, and create fun destinations to visit. With this America Walks grant, the neighborhood group will work with law enforcement, the health department and other community organizations to identify and mark a safe walking route connecting the lending library locations to promote active transportation and recreation. Walking is an inexpensive and accessible way of improving health outcomes for a diverse population of people within a community. Especially important for the under-served areas, improved access to safe places to walk within the city allow the ability to access resources, meet their basic needs, maintain health and well-being, have economic opportunity, and participate in public life. Goals of this project include encouraging physical activity, as well as increasing the safety of pedestrians. This project will also open up more dialogue among residents on pedestrian safety issues/concerns and help identify other potential projects to improve the walkability of the neighborhood.

City of Alexandria, Alexandria, LA: The City of Alexandria will be placing way finding signs downtown along a route where cameras have been installed signifying that this area is a “Safe Harbor Walking Path” to encourage walking, interacting and letting the public know that they are monitored on cameras and are safe while using this area to shop, take care of legal business, eat, but most of all exercise.

City of Takoma Park, Takoma Park, MD: Takoma Park Safe Routes to School envisions a one mile themed sensory/fitness route titled “Walk in Someone Else’s Shoes.” The route intersects with two elementary schools and one middle school, Takoma Park Community Center and Library and Takoma-Piney Branch Local Park. Students, teachers, and parents can begin the route at any point to enjoy a 15-30 minute walk enhanced with fitness activities and themed exercises. The proposed messaging will relate to inclusion, mindfulness, and kindness while the fitness prompts engage the walkers in bursts of activity. For example, users may be prompted to do 5 jumping jacks and with each one say something kind about someone.  Pavement markings will be stenciled with paint or pre-made decals. Students today, especially in Takoma Park, have the advantage of growing up in an era marked with increased tolerance, acceptance, and understanding of differences in race, gender, or ability. However, we still struggle as a nation to address equity. The themed-route, “Walk in Someone Else’s Shoes,” provides a safe space for dialogue and exploration of these issues. Using the route together as a class, family, or group of friends gives walkers a break from the routine and a time to move forward, both physically and emotionally. The planned route is ADA compliant.

University of Massachusetts, Boston, MA: This innovative placemaking project aims to connect an urban university to its surrounding community, improve mental health, and increase walking along the Harborwalk in the Harbor Point neighborhood of Dorchester, Massachusetts. The Harborwalk is a 47-mile public walkway that includes parks, public art, and education. A section of the Harborwalk was recently renovated and re-opened which encircles the campus of the University of Massachusetts, Boston (UMB). This grant will allow us to install a UMB GRACE trail (https://gracetrail.com; Gratitude, Release, Acceptance, Challenges and Empowerment) along a 1 mile Harborwalk segment. The UMB GRACE trail will provide a stress reducing and health promoting opportunity for individuals to complete a mindful walk. The trail includes maps, information, reflective questions and small decorated cairns strategically placed along the trail to encourage personal growth and healing for our diverse Harbor Point community. Our goals include: 1) Connecting UMB with the Harbor Point community with a public trail that promotes increasing physical activity and mindfulness; 2) Adding a stress management tool for students to support their academic success and 3) Adding official distance markers that coincide with the GRACE Trail to enhance its use for health, fitness and wellness.

Beartooth Recreational Trails Association, Red Lodge, MT: The project promotes Red Lodge’s Coal Miners Park by providing better signage and walking trail restoration. Coal Miners Park is a walkable multiuse park that is currently underutilized, in large part because not enough people know how to use it. Built atop an old tailings pile, it includes riverside walking trails, fishing access, mountain biking trails, a picnic area with incredible mountain views, a coal mining memorial, and a disc golf course. At the north end of the walkable town, adjacent to a wildlife sanctuary and a newly-built high school, it could be a walkable hub for the community. We will provide a new Welcome sign that helps define the park and its activities. We will also dedicate money for Montana Conservation Corps crews to improve trails, which have recently eroded to dangerously expose old coal tailings.

Columbus Community Hospital, Columbus, NE: 1 & 2 mile walking routes within Columbus will be assessed with Walkability Checklist. From routes assessed three destination “walkCOLUMBUS” routes will be selected & promoted with 4-6 signs/route. Weather resistant aluminum signs with laminated decal printing/graphics along with posts will be purchased with funding. City of Columbus staff will place signage in-kind. Walking routes that connect people to places that matter do not exist now. Benefits include intentional destinations that link people to easy access of sites such as post office, healthy access to food, library, etc. Revitalization of Columbus’ historic downtown may occur. Social benefits will grow as trust & safety develops in neighborhoods, isolation is reduced, & increased community participation involvement.

City of Albany, Albany, NY: Grant funds from America Walks will be used to purchase supplies for a tactical urbanism toolkit that can be deployed to implement four traffic calming and pedestrian safety demonstration projects. These demonstration projects are an effective way for the City to test design ideas, educate residents and increase public outreach. The reusable toolkit will be used to create small pop up interventions such as public art, curb extensions and parklets at identified locations in low-income neighborhoods. The City will partner with schools and advocacy groups during the implementation phase in order to create neighborhood ambassadors to facilitate curbside conversations about reclaiming streets. The toolkit will also be used to augment the upcoming City of Albany Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan to help the community re-imagine the future of their streets.

Parks, Recreation & Cultural Resource Department, Matthews, NC: We are so excited to be a recipient of this grant! This grant will be used to improve connectivity between the McDowell Arts Center and the Matthews Community Center in the Cultural Arts District in downtown Matthews, as well as provide a safe crossing option for Elementary students who utilize this crosswalk daily. A unique crosswalk mural is planned for this area. We hope to include community engagement by having community members help paint the crosswalk. The crosswalk mural will incorporate important themes and history of the Town, and will beautify the area as well as bring attention to the crosswalk and the pedestrians who utilize it, with the hope of improving pedestrian safety in this area of the town.

Cesar Chavez K-8, Portland, OR: With this grant we hope to accomplish three initiatives. 1) Compensation: We have many low-income parent volunteers. It is inequitable to expect low-income families to give their time for free. Their collaboration is critical and compensation will make volunteering more accessible. 2) Educational Infrastructure Tours: We find that families involved with our SRTS program do not know what to ask for when it comes to transportation improvements. We want to change that by offering tours of communities with stellar transportation infrastructure. Because communities in Portland are segregated, so are the safety improvements. There exist raised protected bike lanes and crosswalks for example, though not in our neighborhood. 3) Wayfinding Project: This wayfinding project would involve students and the Tactical Urbanism approach using Walk Your City.

Foundation for the Improvement of Transportation, Malvern, PA: The grant funding will be used to develop and implement a “Bus Stop Placemaking Demonstration Toolbox” that we will deploy at various existing bus stops along our “LINK” and “SCCOOT” bus routes, both of which are located in Chester County, Pennsylvania (outside of Philadelphia). Containing a [transportable/collapsible] bench, shelter, bollards, bike rack, trash can, and planters, the Demonstration Toolbox will allow us to easily and tangibly create a visual/spatial “mock up” of bus stop elements for municipal officials and property owners/landlords along the Chescobus system. This, in turn, will allow us to obtain the buy-in we need to pursue individual (permanent) bus stop projects with our partners, and for municipalities to better make the case while applying for funds from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Multimodal Grant Fund.

Bike Walk Cleveland, Cleveland, TN: Bike Walk Cleveland, City Fields, the Blythe Oldfield Community Association, the City of Cleveland, and Blythe Bower Elementary School will be working with parents and students to implement a walking school bus program. The walkability of the neighborhood is currently low, lacking sufficient sidewalks or pedestrian crosswalks. According to a neighborhood-wide survey, most residents require access to mechanical transportation, like cars or buses, rather than bicycles or walking options, to access the school. This program will train community volunteers to help students along a clearly laid out route to safely pick up and walk students in the Blythe Oldfield community to the Blythe Bower Elementary School. This program’s implementation will also serve as a model for other schools in the area so they can implement their own walking school bus programs.

Velo Paso Bicycle-Pedestrian Grant, El Paso, TX: Velo Paso Bicycle-Pedestrian Coalition and Rosa Guerrero Elementary School are proud to team up to create a Safe Routes to School program – thanks in large part to an America Walks Community Change Grant – that we hope will encourage and enable the Rosa Guerrero students, of whom over 90% are currently driven to school, to be able to safely walk or ride their bikes to school. Velo Paso and the school’s leadership will be working with the students and parents to conduct walkability assessments, engage in wayfinding to identify safe routes, and train both parent volunteers and students to walk and/or bike safely to the school.

Health studies have shown that too many students do not get enough exercise, which can lead to a myriad of issues, including obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Studies have also shown that one of the best ways to increase physical activity is through the simple activity of walking to and from school. The additional benefits of being physically active include increased attentiveness, and better grades in school. We believe our partnership will not only increase the students’ physical well being, but their grades as well, giving them a big step up.

Northwest Side Community Development Corporation, Milwaukee, WI: The Northwest Side Community Development Corporation, in partnership with local community groups, residents, and schools, will design and paint a “yellow brick road” to identify a safe walking route in Milwaukee, Wisconsin that highlights different features along the way. This path will serve as a route for neighbors who want to maintain an active lifestyle and for children to get safely to school and other neighborhood destinations. Features showcased along the route include Lincoln Creek, public green spaces, gardens, schools, a pedestrian bridge, and new complete streets improvements. This exciting project will draw attention to walking while enhancing neighborhood identity and pride. We will engage several community groups, especially youth and families, to help design and stencil the route. Following the stenciling, we will host a series of neighborhood walks, led by residents, to show off the route and further encourage neighbors to get out and walk in the neighborhood on a regular basis. A goal of this project is to start walking groups so people will regularly walk the route throughout the year.

City of Cody, WY: The City of Cody will be utilizing the America Walks Community Change Grant funds to help enhance the user experience at Beck Lake Park with the design & installation of new maps and improved mileage signage around the park. Additionally, the City will provide guided walking programs in conjunction with several community partners in hopes of fostering life long healthy habits and utilization of the great outdoor recreation spaces in our community.