America Walks is a nonprofit helping communities across the country become more walkable. We're fans of their work and today we're highlighting one of their recent projects.
At America Walks, we regularly see the passion, creativity, and dedication of local community change agents across the US who are working to build more walkable places.
One of our more popular programs, our Community Change Grant program which awards small funds to community organizations, city officials, and other walking champions to help realize the creative projects they believe will get their communities back on their feet, helps us to catalyze grassroots efforts that make walkability a reality. These projects highlight local innovations that we can share with our network to offer examples of success and actions that can inspire.
The grant program was originally started as a means to support local walking champions to engage and implement the US Surgeon General’s Call to Action on Walking and Walkable Communities recommendations. During the three years we've run the program, we have received over 2,000 applications from local groups and have increased the number of partners supporting these small funds that are making big changes for communities.
The projects represent a wide variety of interventions and programs that can support walking and walkability. We have funded a mural in Opelousas, LA and the first crosswalk in Burke, SD. Other grantees have established programs to use walking as a means to build relationships across generations, such as the group from Hawaii who lead inter-generational photo walks that explore their community’s history and culture.
Some of this year's grantees include:
- The Ellsworth Garden Club in Ellsworth, Maine, which plans to build a walkway connecting an elementary school, a residential neighborhood and lakefront green space with the grounds of the city library as well as restaurants, businesses and offices on the main street.
- The City of High Point, North Carolina, which plans to use their grant to fund the creation of maps identifying safe, walkable routes for residents in their community.
- KC Healthy Kids in Kansas City, Kansas who will use their grant to support "The Walking Detective" where kids can conduct walking audits to find clues and collect evidence to evaluate sidewalks, crosswalks, traffic, safety, and amenities like parks and benches. They will build a case report to show city officials what things need to be improved.
- The City of Mulberry, Arkansas, which will install solar lights at a local park to encourage use of its trails and ensure that the park feels safe at all hours.
As we continue to expand the program, America Walks has partnered with the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability to offer a subsection of grants focused on expanding walking and walkability for people with disabilities. The work of Access Portsmouth and their continued success is an example of how relatively small funds can help to start and grow programs that have invaluable impacts on the health of a community. America Walks and our partners are excited to see what the recently-awarded class of grantees tackles as they start their projects in early 2018.
This program is a reminder that providing small funds that support grassroots efforts aimed at empowering communities to create more safe, accessible and enjoyable places to walk and be physically active can be the start of changes that improve the health of the entire community. It’s also a reminder that changes to create walkable communities don’t always need to be huge undertakings.
Every community member has the power to help get their community on the walking path. Consider these steps:
- Gather a group of friends, family, or neighbors to do a Walking Audit to identify changes that need to be made in your community
- Stay active with our youngest community members by starting a Walking School Bus
- Improve your own advocacy skills by taking part in our Walking College. Applications are open until February 28.