Meet America Walks’ 2020 Community Change Grantees – Grassroots Projects That Aim to Create Safety, Inclusivity and Accessibility

America Walks is excited to announce the awarded grants of the 2020 Community Change Grant Program. This program supports local, grassroots efforts to create safe, accessible, and enjoyable places to walk and be physically active for all community members. Since it’s beginning in 2015, this grant program has provided funds for more than a hundred projects demonstrating the creativity and passion of walking and moving champions across the US.
These grantees were selected from nearly 600 applications because they demonstrate a clear drive to create healthy, active, and engaged communities that support walking and moving for transportation, health, and recreation – with a foundation of equity and authentic engagement of the whole community. 

Awardees will work with the America Walks team to successfully complete their projects and share their lessons with other community change agents. While the projects and programs work to provide strong walkable community standards and elements, the results of each grant will have a positive change on many areas of that community.

With support from our generous Active People, Health Nations partners and others, these are the 13 projects that will be supported in 2021.

Meet the Grantees

Life Enrichment Advancing People / LEAP (Wilton, Maine)

LEAP will be installing an accessibility swing and firming up the pathways at Stone Soup Gardens. This is all possible with help from a grant from America Walks, donations, from community members, and a virtual run/walk fundraiser.

These funds will provide more wheelchair accessibility as well as opportunity for community members of all abilities to swing and enjoy the fresh air at our Stone Soup Gardens. We are very excited to get started on this project, and look forward to seeing the increased use of the outdoor space at our gardens/trails.

Walnut Creek Elementary School (Austin, Texas)

This grant will help us to make our school yard a beautiful place to come and bring the family for our community.

Our schoolyard is very plain, but with these funds, we will be able to create and beautify our area and make it more accessible to our students and families.

Rose Park Neighborhood Association (Long Beach, California)

The community within us! Is taken from H. Sacks’ work on the communities being hyper visible, while at the same time culturally invisible. We believe neighborhoods are obligated to be part of the solution, not the problem. The project will connect hundreds of individuals, largely renters, between 10-40% persons of color, living in a densely populated region of Long Beach. Where large spaces within walking distance e.g. schoolyards are cordoned off preventing resident use, deemed by the County of LA a ‘park desert’.

This project will create two demonstration alleys along a .2 mile corridor; propose altered city regulation of alley use, link to city’s open streets initiative providing safe and inclusive alternative to the high-speed, high risk corridor that runs through the neighborhood.

What this means: This award connects neighborhoods like ours together across the country and hopefully around the world in a common mission. We need and want these affiliating relationships. This award means we are not just ‘that neighborhood’ but we are a part of a new day for neighborhoods – and we can’t wait!

Plenty Inc. (Floyd, Virginia)

Floyd County currently has no handicap-accessible public walking trail and no public access to enjoy one of Floyd’s most beautiful natural features, the Little River. Plenty! seeks to develop the old stagecoach roadbed along the Little River that runs along the back of our 17-acre farm. Conveniently located trails are a wonderful resource for growing community health and wellness, particularly among people with limited transportation options and disposable income. Located 3 miles north of the Town of Floyd, and centrally located within the county, Plenty! is a busy and diverse intersection of more than 200 people who volunteer and/or visit the food pantry each week. In the current COVID environment of facility closures and event/program cancellations, public outdoor spaces are more important than ever to community well-being and livability.

Plenty!’s Little River Walk will invite all ages and abilities to explore, harvest, and linger. Trail plantings will include native edible shrubs and perennials in a riparian buffer designed to educate and inspire. Increased physical activity will be encouraged through “story walks” and signs for place-based learning and mindful reflection.

As we emerge from the difficulties of the past year, Plenty! is called, now more than ever, to live out our vision “to create and nurture a healthy, diverse, welcoming community through generosity of spirit, education, and growing and sharing food.” We are excited to welcome the entire community to help us envision and implement the Little River Walk for all to come, learn and enjoy.

Not Forgotten Outreach, Inc. (Taos, New Mexico)

Not Forgotten Outreach plans to build an ADA-accessible public walking trail , so the general public can visit, walk through, and appreciate the green space on 28 acres of farm and pastureland in Taos, New Mexico. The beginning of the walking trail will loop around the Veterans Living Memorial Park (VLMP) and cross a bridge over a stream running through the property.

The walking trail, located less than a mile from the center of town, provides an easy connection to the outdoors, the local community, and the VLMP. Everyone deserves to enjoy the therapeutic benefits of nature regardless of age, ability, physical limitations, or income level.

This grant means the resources to start the project and improve the quality of life of diverse Taos County residents through creating a more walkable community. NFO and the VLMP committee are extremely appreciative as this allows for public access to the Living Veterans Memorial Park which provides a space to serve and honor Veterans and Military Families in Taos. Additionally, Don Peters, executive director, lives with a service connected spinal cord injury and knows other people living with paralysis in Taos who will benefit greatly from an ADA accessible walking trail as currently the ADA accessible trail options in Taos are sparse.

Bethel School District (Eugene, Oregon)

Receiving this grant means that we can make a change for the better in Bethel. We will be putting something creative on the road to call attention for the need for safety, to call attention to the use of active transportation, and to call attention to the ability of Bethel residents to collaborate and create a project that does something even more, to create a place in Bethel.

The final project will include paint on the ground in some creative fashion – although residents of Bethel will have the final say on what is created.

St Louis University (St. Louis, Missouri)

The Justice Fleet is a mobile social justice museum that fosters community healing through art, dialogue, and play. Each exhibit utilizes interactive therapy and moves into neighborhoods to engage community members.

This grant will fund the creation of a Grief Garden which is a safe, public, green space designed for communities to grieve injustices via various interactive and therapeutic activities. In a community with little access to green spaces, parks, museums, and other intellectually or physically stimulating spaces to call their own, this project benefits community members’ mental and physical health, as well as increases walkability within the neighborhood.

Choptank Heritage Trail (Cambridge, Maryland)

Our project will install and document several pop up demonstration projects to bring awareness of the need for walkability and safety improvements in our traditionally underserved neighborhoods.

This grant is a major first step in gaining momentum for permanent improvements in our neighborhoods that need them most!

Day One (Pasadena, CA)

Founded in 1987, Day One (DO) has 30 years of experience in building healthy, vibrant cities by advancing public health, empowering youth, and igniting change. We are leading the city’s Safe Routes to School Partnership in Pasadena, where we work with the PUSD and the PasDOT to promote students walking, biking, and rolling to school at 9 schools in the district, 4 of which are in NW Pasadena.

We would partner with NAACP Pasadena and PasCSC to improve and promote the “African American History of Pasadena Walking Tour” (AAHPWT) that the two groups co-created. The tour will be hosted on the app, which community members can download and use to explore Pasadena’s history on their own in socially distanced ways. A majority of the funding would go towards recording and uploading the missing audio for the tour, creating interactive questions for each tour destination, developing a toolkit for PUSD history lessons, and creating a promotional video. We hope to provide another route through which Pasadena residents can walk and spend time outside while also uplifting the important and often-overlooked history of the Black community in NW Pasadena.

Community Care of West Virginia, Inc. (Rock Cave, West Virginia)

We are developing a pocket park with a series of walking trails on an unused piece of land that sits adjacent to our rural health clinic. This clinic provides care to the uninsured, underserved, and poor population in Clay County, West Virginia as well as the surrounding counties. The park and trail paths will service patients, clinic staff, and the local community of all ages, providing flat, safe, accessible trails in a region with limited recreational opportunities. Even prior to the recent pandemic, where at times we have been asked to deliver health care in our parking lot, on the phone, or on the porches of our patients, it was clear if we wanted to improve long standing health care disparities in our region then we would need to think outside the clinic walls. West Virginia has some of the highest rates of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity in the country.

We believe this park will encourage more physical activity and provide a space to enjoy nature. Physical activity, especially when combined with being outdoors in a nature setting, is powerful medicine. It not only helps with many of the chronic diseases of diabetes, hypertension, and obesity, but lowers anxiety and depression levels. These diseases are pervasive and chronic issues in our region. We plan as well to integrate this park and trail system into the clinic operation by offering walking appointments for those patients wanting a different experience when visiting their doctors. We are currently in the design phase working with community members and teaming with other organizations to make the most of the property we have. This grant will be used for materials to allow us to start on the trail construction. More importantly, it is a show of support in a what is becoming a broad-based coalition that will be needed to bring this project to fruition.

Allegheny County Health Department (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)

We are so excited to use this grant to promote walking as a safe form of physical activity in Allegheny County. The Allegheny County Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention program is partnering with Let’s Move Pittsburgh to create a special walking safety edition of Let’s Move Pittsburgh Bingo! Each bingo block is completed as the participant goes on a walk. Some of the bingo blocks are tasks for them to complete which includes safe walking behaviors and others are objects they may come across.

The bingo card will also include a walking safety checklist to teach and encourage children to follow safety measures. Bingo cards will be distributed to schools and returned bingo cards will enter kids into a raffle for prizes.

The Neighborhood Academy (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)

The Neighborhood Academy (TNA) in Pittsburgh, PA is a college preparatory, independent school whose mission is to break the cycle of generational poverty by empowering youth and preparing them for college and citizenship. With the support of America Walks, TNA plans to design, implement, and create our own “TNA Community Outdoor Trail”.

This new trail located on our school campus in the Stanton Heights neighborhood of Pittsburgh, which will combine existing pathways with newly created pathways, will allow our students to safely access a nature trail and encourage a healthier lifestyle. Funding from America Walks will also be utilized to create and install mile markers throughout the trail, providing our students with a method of measurable exercise. The new Trail will be incorporated holistically into our educational model through classroom learning, athletics and sports, mental health counseling, volunteering, and more. In light of the pandemic, it is even more important now for our students to have outdoor spaces in which they feel comfortable, as TNA has been utilizing outdoor spaces more now than ever before to create a safe learning environment for our students. TNA is committed to serving urban low-income youth while emphasizing compassionate, intentional, and holistic education.

Mayor’s Health Task Force, Lawrence, Massachusetts

Our Healthy Active Living Working Group will be working with our Safe Routes To School partners to increase the number of students walking and biking to school safely.

We will be working collaboratively with the school communities to identify “Safe Routes To School” that will be used in the future for activities such as Walk to School/Bike To School Days. Receiving this award is an honor and reiterates the importance of safety in building walkable communities. We look forward to this work and other future community, age friendly programs/initiatives, that engages youth and their families.

To learn more about this program, our grantees, or how you can sponsor projects, please click here.