San Francisco recently commemorated the great success of being the first city in the nation where every resident lives within a 10-minute walk to a park. It is, indeed, a great feat worth celebrating. But not every 10-minute walk is the same.
Nestled in western Maryland is a nature park that is one of Frederick County’s true jewels. Catoctin Creek Park captures the imagination of visitors every day as guests enjoy not only historical elements in this one hundred and thirty-nine acre park, but also miles of trails and the County’s newest green energy efficient nature center.
Stories from Small Towns is a project of the National Physical Activity Society. The objective of the project is to demonstrate that structural changes to make walking easier can be carried out in America’s thousands of small towns and not just its big cities. The project focuses on advice from towns that have made some changes, with the aim of inspiring town leaders across the country to see such infrastructure as possible and worthy. The following are stories from small towns that have focused on parks as a key to walkability.
Almost 70 percent of Henderson, Nevada residents live within a half-mile of a park or recreation amenity—the equivalent of just two laps around a track. With so many parks and trails within walking distance, Henderson residents have a unique opportunity to participate in outdoor experiences right in their own neighborhoods.
In 2006, a national magazine declared Oklahoma City one of the fattest cities in the United States. That spurred Mayor Mick Cornett into action, first by losing 38 pounds on a diet based on sensible eating and exercise, then by launching a campaign to help his city lose one million pounds. “There’s no other way to put it, we were overweight,” Cornett said. “I knew if I wanted to encourage change in our citizens, I had to first change myself,” Cornett said. The campaign ignited local leadership to reshape how the city needed to change in terms of walkability and citizen fitness.
An ailing economy meant fewer resources for pathway upkeep along Miami-Dade County trails. One trail system in particular that became overgrown and impassable meanders through a 50-acre natural hardwood hammock preserve — a canopied forest unique to Florida — within the 116-acre Kendall Indian Hammocks Park, a regional park located in a densely populated area. - See more at: http://staging.nrpa.org/success-stories/?pg=9#sthash.GkxYFV5D.dpuf
Families, bikers, runners, and seniors travel the Jordan River Parkway Trail, in northern Utah, every day. “We have a lot of users that walk or bike the trail and need a spot to sit for a minute — to catch their breath or to enjoy the surroundings,” says Colby Hill associate director of public works in South Jordan, Utah.
For more than two decades, Lubbock, Texas, residents who lived in the densely populated community surrounding Hoel Park had longed for an off-street place to stroll. “The trail has been a request for probably over 20 years by trail users and neighborhood groups in that part of Lubbock,” says Randy Truesdell, parks and recreation director for the City of Lubbock, Texas.
The Paseo Trail System in Chandler, Arizona, is filled with joggers, roller-bladers, bicyclists, walkers and horseback riders who frequent the urban, lighted path year-round. With multiple entry and exit points along the trail, there needed to be a way for users to know where they were along the route.
Lafayette Park is considered the oldest park in St. Louis, Missouri, as well as the oldest urban park west of the Mississippi. The well-used, 30-acre park has walking paths, gardens, a lake, a boathouse, a landscaped grotto, a playground, and Victorian-era buildings. “It’s always full of kids, families, and people with their dogs,” says Alicia Stellhorn, leisure program manager for playtime recreation at the Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry in St. Louis, Missouri.
The vestiges of an ancient archipelago stretch north-south along the Florida peninsula. Millions of years ago, when sea levels rose and inundated the peninsula, a chain of small, sandy islands remained above sea level—each developing its own unique, evergreen-forested habitat.
In Strongsville, Ohio, a trail leads from the town commons to the recreation and senior center, meandering along the way through a series of gardens. Each garden represents one war in which Americans have fought. As visitors walk or bike along the Strongsville Freedom Trail, they pass through both a timeline of American history and a tribute to the local citizens who served their country through military service.
When the Missouri River overflowed its banks in May of 2011, a summer of unprecedented Midwest flooding followed—washing away miles-long stretches of highway and displacing thousands of people from Montana to Missouri. Omaha, Nebraska, suffered extensive damage to land and property—including the destruction of a number of trails and trail amenities.
Before this project, a walk along the nature trails at Stiglmeier Park in Cheektowaga, New York, often meant the possibility of getting somewhat lost or turned around. That was because many of the aging trail markers posted at intersections along the 5.2-mile Losson Nature Trail System were in disrepair, misleading walkers, families, birders, joggers, school groups, and others who explored the mature forest, meadows, aspen woods, and marshes of the park.
“People love walking or running up and down the Brushy Creek Corridor,” Round Rock Parks and Recreation director Rick Atkins states. “You’re always sure to find an Indian arrowhead or something distinctive just by kicking the dirt and walking around and getting close to the water.”
In the midst of Boston's bustling, diverse Jamaica Plain neighborhood sits a former quarry site known as Nira Rock. Though Jamaica Plain contains several Olmsted "Emerald Necklace" parks, Nira Rock is unlike any of those manicured green spaces. With its 40-foot puddingstone outcropping and steep slopes, it is a craggy, untamed place.
Sugar Land, Texas, is a fast-growing planned community in the Houston suburbs—a place where developers incorporated trails, along with other amenities, into subdivisions as they were built. In 2007 Sugar Land’s parks and recreation department examined that resulting network of neighborhood trails and developed a hiking/biking master plan to connect those many miles of trail infrastructure into a citywide system accessible to all residents.
Nestled in the northern reaches of Philadelphia, Pennypack Park creates a swath of green oasis in the midst of urban neighborhoods and development.