This year, we’re thrilled to be teaming up with four local communities in Pennsylvania to make accessing parks safe, convenient, and equitable for people walking and biking. As we celebrate National Parks and Recreation Month this July, we want to uplift this year’s theme, “where community grows” from our partners at the National Recreation and Parks Association by sharing a couple of highlights from our Safe Routes to Parks Pennsylvania Activating Communities. You can read more here about each of the four communities that are participating in this year’s cohort.
Two-Day Safe Routes to Parks Workshop in Shenandoah Injects Energy Around Community Engagement
Since the beginning, the grantee organization, Schuylkill County’s VISION has known that people are at the center of their Safe Routes to Parks planning process in Shenandoah. In this small community, it is nearly impossible to walk to a park and not run into someone you know. Because social connections carry as much importance as physical connections to parks, the grantee organization has been working to reinvigorate a community coalition to sustain its park access work.
In May, Schuylkill County’s VISION worked with Safe Routes Partnership to organize a two-day workshop that brought together interested residents, local partners, and community leadership to equip them with strategies to further engage community members around park access. The outcome over the course of two days was a renewed sense of energy to grow their initiative together and a roadmap to diversify and grow their engagement efforts. Participating in a number of interactive engagement activities, community stakeholders left the workshop excited to use these tools to determine what residents and families need and want for their parks and routes to them. They also mapped out partners to ensure that more families, youth, and Spanish-speaking community members could be part of the community’s Safe Routes to Parks vision.
If you’re curious about what tools were used, check out these resources: Safe Routes to Parks Walk Audit Toolkit, A Place-It! Guide to Safe Routes to School, and Safe Routes Community Engagement Cards.
Workshop participants in Shenandoah create models to share memories of parks and their ideal vision of walking and biking to them.
Walk audit in Shenandoah reveals both challenges and opportunities to improve routes to parks.
East Bayfront Convenes Agency Partners to Discuss Upcoming Plans and Projects
In the Historic East Bayfront neighborhood of the City of Erie, Bayfront East Side Task Force (BEST) has spent the last several weeks compiling data, including conducting community walk audits to identify improvements that would make walking and biking to their local greenspaces safer and more accessible. Lighting, seating, wayfinding signage, safe crossings, and accessible sidewalks, are just a few of those needs that have risen to the top. As they met with local agency staff, it became clear that there were several opportunities, programs, and resources that could support their Safe Routes to Parks goals, but they had a lot of questions to help sort out prospective projects and better understand the role of partner agencies in their plan.
Bringing together nearly 20 stakeholders and partners, BEST retraced portions of their walk audits to highlight some of their pressing questions, concerns, and needs. In discussion with these stakeholders, it became clear the convergence of where needs overlapped with upcoming opportunities and resources, pointing BEST to long-term goals and more immediate early actions. For instance, by identifying sidewalk maintenance as a priority, BEST learned that the City of Erie has a sidewalk inventory and is applying for funds to improve sections of city-owned sidewalks. While this funding does not address sidewalks that are maintained by private property owners, it did clarify long-term opportunities for policy changes and funding strategies to subsidize maintenance for property owners who might qualify. Having this kind of information at hand directly from partners was invaluable and immediately following this meeting, BEST began to chart a path for implementing their Safe Routes to Park’s goals.