Finding Your Way Through Parks & Trails with Technology

by Sandi L. Feight-Hicks

As Parks & Recreation Professionals we know every nook and cranny in our parks and on our trails.  Not every person who visits our facilities and decides to walk a trail is confident where they are or understands where they are going. 

Lower Gwynedd Township has over 25 miles of non-continuous walking trails throughout the community.  Like any other municipality, we have paper maps with the parks, trails and street names.  Once upon a time, prior to Google Maps we had written directions on our website to our parks.  It’s hard to imagine a time when we had to guess where we were going. In our life time we have seen so many advances in technology. 

I decided several years ago it was much easier for park visitors to use a google map to get accurate directions to our parks.  After creating maps for each of our parks in Google Maps, our webmaster was able to embed those images into our website ( Today, in total our Park maps have had over 78K views. 

Since the pandemic trail use has grown tremendously, many people sought out new places to walk and explore.  I can thank Google Maps for this as well, since our trails appear on the application. Since the pandemic, I have fielded many calls asking where trails are.  A vast majority of the phone calls in the last several years have been, “where does that trail go?”, “I have seen this trail but not certain where it leads or ends” & “why can’t you make an interactive map?”

Why can’t you make an interactive map?  This question stood out in my mind.  I focus on users experience and how they will benefit.  After finding one of the map links broken on our website, I realized I had the answer. I already had a base map with all the trails. I thought about what people inquired about; reference points, entrance, exit, junctions, distance, parking, surface materials, etc.  I began to enhance the map.  I defined the trail lines, “to and from”, distance, and surface material.  At each trail head, I dropped a pin point, changed the icon to a hiker and added photos.  At trail junctions, another pin point was added with a camera, these photos were panorama.  I’m mindful of resident’s homes and backyards, as to not capture them.  Parking areas were added later along with other park amenities. Using the navigation technology in Google Maps, the additional blue fan hue indicates your orientation.  If you turn around, that fan will spin as well.   From here you can navigate by foot to the trail head and walk the trail.  In the three months the map has been live we have had over 4K views. 

This map is a living document, along with the trail identification system, and it must be maintained. From a development perspective, this was not a small task, but Township Staff have the ability to make real time changes for the real time users.  Our Park & Trail users now have the assurances that the interactive trail map they have on their phone and in their pocket is up to date and will show them where they are.


Mind your margin

I used to have an annoying tendency to agree to anything that’s far enough in advance.

My bad habit would kick in whenever I looked at my planner and found a blank space during the requested time. Nothing there? Looks like we’re good to go!

Then the future would show up, and I’d discover that once again I’d overbooked my time, attention and energy—to my physical, mental and spiritual detriment.

You’d think I would have caught on quicker, but it took me several decades to learn to reserve the necessary margin I need in my life.

I’ve finally come to view such demands differently, even when my calendar is open, because I can honestly answer that I already have another commitment at that time—to myself!

May is Mental Health month. Do yourself a favor. Give yourself a break.

Culture of Health – coming to a park near you!

Did you know that 29% of high school students felt sad or hopeless
almost every day for 2 or more weeks in a row so that they stopped
doing some usual activities (2017; US Dept. of HHS)? Or that 2 in 5 Americans report that they sometimes or always feel their social relationships are not meaningful, and one in five say they feel lonely or socially isolated. Loneliness and social isolation can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a
(2019; Dept. of HSRA). These are startling statistics, but as John Lennon once famously said, “There are no problems, only solutions”! So let’s get solving!

The PRPS Health and Wellness Committee is excited to launch the Culture of Health program this year to address some of these community issues. What is the Culture of Health program you ask…let me tell you about it!

We all know being healthy and well doesn’t just mean being physically fit, but true, sustained wellness is a holistic endeavor. The Culture of Health program is aimed at promoting holistic wellness to children ages 5-12, in four key areas:

Mental Health – a state of successful mental functioning, positive self-image emotional stability and ability to adapt to change and cope with adversity

Intellectual Health – the ability to learn, grow from experiences and utilize intellectual capabilities

Physical Health – the conditioning of one’s body to include absence of disease and improved fitness level

Social Health – Learning to positively interact with others, understanding individuality within the framework of a community, gaining skills to communicate and handling conflict with peers

The Culture of Health (CoH) program is a free, 100% turn key option that can be implemented this year in OST and summer camps and we encourage all PRPS member communities to take part!

Some program nuts and bolts:

The CoH Program Handbook includes:

A. Program overview, goals and 4 H & W component definitions

B. Example of a weekly implementation model

C. 10-12 activities for each H & W component organized into a CoH cookbook

D. Each activity “recipe” includes goal, instructions and supplies; all activities involve common P & R supplies – no additional expenses!

All resource materials will be housed on the PRPS website:

A. CoH logo will be available to be added to program flyers, staff trainings and will identify your program as a CoH partner!

B. Program staff training video

C. Culture of Health program guide

The Health and Wellness Committee is super excited to roll the Culture of Health program out this year! But this is where we need your help! We all know the last year has been tough. Our kids are stuck in a virtual existence, positive social interactions are few and far between, and we can all see challenges ahead. Take advantage of this amazing resource and set your kids up for truly, truly improved health. Happy, connected, clear, confident, heart healthy happiness!

We look forward to discussing the Culture of Health program more at the 2021 PRPS Annual Conference in a few short weeks, but my advice…register today by simply emailing Emily Gates at!

Essential Services: Activities and Recreational Therapy Professionals Making A Difference! Part 2

Compiled by Jeff Witman, CTRS, FDRT, Professor Emeritus, Applied Behavioral Sciences, York College of PA

With this blog we follow the progression of specific impacts at a facility and look to the future. There has never been a time with a greater need for communities to collaborate in their support of long term care and other healthcare organizations.
Emily Connors, CTRS, CDP, Therapeutic Recreation Supervisor, Masonic Village at Elizabethtown

March 2020 This month started off like usual, with much excitement for St. Patrick’s Day, trips and outings, programs, entertainment and laughter! No one expected, or could have been prepared for, the impact of COVID-19. Here at the Masonic Village at Elizabethtown, things came to a grinding halt instantly. Families were not allowed to visit. Vendors were not permitted on campus. All campus entrances were closed, except for one, and only staff members were permitted. Residents in the health care and personal care areas were told they needed to remain in their rooms at all times. There was a lot of anxiety, fear and questions. Things we had never considered as regular practices, were now in discussion. Decisions were made and changes occurred daily – sometimes several times a day – based on the situation. For our therapeutic recreation department, our concerns instantly focused on our residents now being in their rooms. Thoughts regarding their emotional, social, cognitive and physical health were swirling at our meetings. What we had always done (encouraging residents to socialize and be engaged in leisure) was now not safe for them to do. This idea went against all of our training, education and experience. Not only was our staff concerned for our residents, but the fear within the communities and our homes was unable to be ignored. Shortly after the decision for residents to remain in their rooms was made and implemented, our team quickly realized the connection to families was so important to figure out. Within one week, we had an iPad for each neighborhood. Our staff received training on Zoom and FaceTime and quickly found themselves training families on this technology. These video chats became a lifeline for many. In addition to the challenge of connecting families, our team realized the need for residents to continue to be engaged. We were able to utilize our technology and capability for livestreaming on our campus television channel. By April 1, we were able to distribute therapeutic recreation calendars to all of our residents that included physical programs selected by our wellness department, music by our music therapy department, spiritual programs by our spiritual care department and a variety of cognitive, educational and special event programs provided by our department. Our entire team across campus pulled together to provide livestream programming that would meet the needs of our residents and continue to keep them engaged, despite having to remain in their rooms. Bingo was a challenge for us to figure out because it was so important to all of our residents on campus. We were able to livestream our bingo software onto the resident televisions and call the numbers, as well. We now have residents in our retirement living, personal care and health care areas playing along with our virtual bingo each Friday.

August 2020 Things look much different this month! In addition to our active livestream program schedule, we are looking forward to beginning small group implementation. With the COVID-19 situation so fluid, we need to prepare while being flexible, as things can change quickly yet again. We have learned so much through this. Our need to adapt and push ourselves to grow in ways we couldn’t imagine has helped us in the long run. We now know how to utilize technology to connect families who live in other states and previously would not have had the opportunity to visit. We now know how to utilize our livestreaming capabilities to bring engaging programs to residents, even during times such as flu outbreaks or further COVID outbreaks. We now know how strong our teams are and how much we can depend on each other.

Kim Sullivan, CTRS, Resident Experience Director, The Haven at Springwood

COVID-19 has brought much chaos to my work environment, but I remind myself daily that the chaos I experience cannot compete with what my residents have been dealing with for almost six months. When news began to break about the seriousness of COVID-19 and residents found themselves isolated to their rooms, there was a lot of fear and anxiousness surrounding the virus and wanting to know just how long all of this was going to last. My department turned on its heels to move in a completely different direction in regards to programming–at first, my residents found novelty and delight in seeing what we would come up with next. How we would make life feel as “normal” as it could under these circumstances. How we would keep them connected to their loved ones. Six months later, the novelty has worn off in many ways. But with all that has changed in the last six months, my department and my team have remained constant–we have and always will be committed to supporting our residents’ well-being. We will stretch our creativity and flexibility to the ends of the earth to provide for them. I have learned many things traversing this pandemic while working in long term care, but two of the most important are, 1) I am stronger emotionally than I ever thought possible, and have found strength in others as well as been the strength for my residents. And, 2) I have built stronger bonds with my residents and their families more in these last six months than I have in my entire career in this field. I have known the importance of recreation therapy and seen its impact, and I feel now more than ever that all others can see it, too. We are truly ESSENTIAL! We are a lifeline for our residents right now. We have stepped into roles that we never thought we’d have to–but we stepped forward into them without a second thought. For now we must continue to step forward, together, through this and to the other side, to our “new normal.”

I hope, as you reflect on what contributors have shared, you consider how you might make a difference in this challenging situation. Residents and staff can benefit from your engagement. Let’s be a mutual aid group of recreation and human service professionals dedicated to finding out how best to give and get support in coping with Covid 19. The virus may keep us apart but we can communicate and work together to keep any of us from being alone.

Teresa Rash, CTRS and her creative staff at the Margaret E. Moul Home shared this wonderful example of adapting to the Covid challenge:
Our Residents loved attending the York Fair every year. Since that was not possible this year we decided to bring some of the fair to our residents with a food truck event. We also had an afternoon of carnival games. The event was enjoyed by residents and staff.
Photo credit: Donna Keller

Essential Services: Activities and Recreational Therapy Professionals Making A Difference!

Compiled by Jeff Witman, CTRS, FDRT, Professor Emeritus, Applied Behavioral Sciences, York College of PA

On March 11, 2020 I had the privilege of speaking to the Lancaster Activity Directors Association’s monthly meeting at Brethren Village. We greeted each other with handshakes and hugs, enjoyed a buffet lunch sitting 8 to a table, sang a song and practiced Tai chi as a group. Within a week these activities and many others were no longer happening in attendees’ work places.

Covid 19 continues to have a profound effect on nursing homes and other healthcare facilities in Pennsylvania. In this edition of Dig It and the next (coming on October 5) four front-liners share their perspectives on responding to the virus.

Mary Schreiber, CTRS, Therapeutic Recreation Manager, Luthercare

As a Recreation Therapist in a long-term care facility that was sadly and significantly impacted by Covid-19, my world has been forever changed and is still changing. My role is now considerably different than it ever was and is now twofold: providing meaningful and purposeful activities to fight boredom and isolation, and keeping residents connected to people important in their lives. Thanks to a very dedicated Therapeutic Recreation team, we’ve been able to offer traveling activities to provide physical, social, intellectual, and spiritual opportunities. Video chats and window visits between residents and family members have become creative opportunities to engage as visitors sing, pray, and laugh together. Most important of all, we have ongoing open dialogue with our residents about the changes that are happening around them. As we move toward recovery and healing, there have been some bright spots along the way. We have seen resilience on display from our residents, a generation who already survived numerous hardships in their lifetime. As they cope with the feelings and emotions that come with restrictions on visitors and gatherings, they are again rising, this time with determination that COVID-19 will not define them.

Mary Ligon, PhD, CTRS, Associate Professor of Gerontology, York College and York Hospital

What: I was serving as a chaplain in a Medical-Surgical Hospital when COVID-19 occurred. In a hospital setting, chaplains meet the emotional and spiritual needs of patients, families, and staff. COVID-19 had a huge impact on the work of chaplains. Whereas before we went to patients’ rooms to meet with them, now we were restricted to calling patients on the phone unless it was an end of life situation. This lack of personal contact was very hard on many patients. During one phone conversation, a patient said to me, “If I could choose a diamond ring or a hug, I’d take a hug right now. But I can’t have either.” For a period of time, no visitors were permitted into the hospital at all, except in the occurrence of end of life. This was an extreme hardship for patients and families alike. As we called patients on the phone, one of the most common concerns they expressed was their feelings of loneliness and isolation because they could not be with their loved ones while going through their hospitalization. Phone calls, FaceTime and Skype helped alleviate the loneliness to a degree but they did not replace the need for human contact. The stress felt by patients and families was passed along the staff which impacted them tremendously. This stress was on top of the stress staff were already feeling because of fears for their own well-being or fears of bringing something home to their families. Caring for the emotional and spiritual needs of the staff became a top priority for chaplains. As an example, I was invited by a Unit Manager to come at the shift change and pray for and bless the nursing staff on a medical unit one day. She explained how overwhelmed people were feeling. They seemed to truly appreciate this blessing. Additionally, the Spiritual Care Department began offering weekly prayer times via zoom for the staff so they could express their concerns, needs, and joys there. Eventually, the chaplains were permitted to return to visiting patients in-person. But now we do so with masks on and carefully using our PPE (personal protection equipment). It’s a relief yet also brings new challenges and anxieties.

So What: In a hospital setting, people face crisis situations daily which brings out the need for emotional and spiritual support. COVID-19 heightened those anxieties. The most apparent lesson I learned from going through the time of COVID-19 in a hospital setting is that people need people and this need is never stronger than when faced with a crisis on top of a crisis. Modern technology is wonderful. Thank goodness for the old-school hospital phones that allowed us to converse with patients. Thank goodness for Video Chats that allowed patients to ‘see’ their loved ones. At the same time, I think we all became aware of how much we need in-person contact and human touch.

Now What: They say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Perhaps we’re a bit more resilient having faced the hardships that have come with COVID-19. Perhaps we appreciate technology in a new way. Most of all, I hope we appreciate the people in our lives and value being with them in good times and bad. COVID-19 brought many hardships and tragedies. I hope we can hold on to the valuable lessons that came with it.

Mary Schreiber
Mary Ligon

Civility – It Starts with You

Most days, it feels like the world has gone mad. Or at least, it’s tilted on its axis in a new way, so we’re all getting used to things being different.

When my calendar reminded me that way back at the end of 2019 I agreed to write this blog post on Civility in August, I must confess, I literally blanked. Civility? Is it even a thing anymore?

My mind whirled with images: people are angry and afraid – about money, about their futures, about their health, about the state of the country and its leadership, about so many things. And I watch in awe as it manifests in the complete feeling of entitlement to shout at strangers in the grocery store who have a different mask choice than you do (including ramming and injuring that person with a cart or tearing a display of masks to shreds while shouting epitaphs)… to road rage… to writing nasty hateful messages on the Governor’s social media pages or shouting at School Administrators who are not making the choice that most fits your individual family needs.

No need to go on about that. We’re living it.

So where does Civility, Kindness, Compassion, and Humor have a place in this angry, stressed, and in some cases mentally unstable world.

Woman Smiling Photo
Can you see her smile? YES – look at the eyes and cheeks…

Let me suggest a theory – it all starts with YOU. With Each of Us. Because you can only control you, but also because you have influence.

Yesterday I was curving through the strangely laid out parking lot of a busy Starbucks when I came parallel with the drive through and the woman in that car started to pull forward without looking. I immediately slowed and there we were, door side to door side, face to face through our windows, who was going to go first. I confess, the weary part of my brain wanted to say “thanks for pulling ahead without looking” but it was a weary thought, and certainly not accompanied by any hand gestures etc. But the woman saw me and smiled – WOW – and waved me forward. So I then waved my thanks with a happy smile and we waved and laughed and waved again as I pulled my car forward. WOW, how lovely, civility and humor and friendliness in a dark world.

I wonder if we can find our own level equilibrium, take our own deep breath before we go forth into the world, and try harder than ever to be civil and kind in this crazy place.

Even smiling feels hard – with the mask on. I’ve heard people say they are amusing themselves by making funny faces behind the mask, or whispering words. I think a good old fashioned smile is still important. And a verbal hello equally so. (Remember the 5 foot 10 foot rule? Let’s do it!)

I recently attended the Global Leadership Summit (virtually!) and had the opportunity to listen to amazing thought leaders  from around the world speak about the challenges that face us and our world. An additional session that I particularly enjoyed was Vanessa Van Edwards and her theories on human interaction.

Let me share two tidbits that I pulled from her presentation.

1) Your smile still shows behind your mask. Have you ever seen a smile that “didn’t reach someone’s eyes”? It’s like the fake “I will show you my teeth” smile but the eyes are flat. Well, a genuine smile includes the muscles around the eyes, the eye shape, the lines around the eyes (yes!), and the forehead. So SMILE smile smile behind that mask. And say a verbal hello.

2) From back in the caveman days, people are primed to see our hands. If we have our hands behind our backs, the amygdala in the brain starts to wonder, what are they up to? When the hands are visible but neutral, the other person’s brain is signaled that “I am a friend”. Vanessa literally suggested, and this is important for all these virtual meetings too, that when we approach someone we do a two handed wave. Sounds cheesy but she demonstrated with three wags of her right hand and then three wags of the left hand. That “hi-hi-hi” with each hand is a calm and friendly opening to “prime” the other person for a good interaction with us.

Now, if we apply that idea, let’s say you’re walking up to someone while smiling behind your mask, a friendly hello, and both hands lifted in whatever wave feels comfortable. This is priming – you’re getting the interaction started off on the right foot.

I’ll leave you with one last story… My friend was walking into our local Walmart, masked, when he observed at the entrance a middle aged man yelling and swearing at the young female staff person who was asking/telling people they must wear a mask in the store. My friend walked up and said “Hey buddy, back off, she’s just doing what she was told to do.” The guy pulled back, perhaps embarrassed, and then stomped off to his car to get a mask. My friend hung around and chatted with the woman, who confided how frightening and exhausting her job is right now, when she gets abuse every few minutes for the hours that she’s working that post. Can you imagine!? I would be a puddle of tears on the sidewalk.

Now, why did that interaction work? My friend said “Hey buddy” in a friendly reasonable tone, AND put his hands up in front of him with palms out, to show non-confrontation. It very easily could have gone the other way into violence.

What happened next? Two things – the man came back and apologized to both of them. He said things are just really getting to him lately, he can’t keep his cool. He was embarrassed but with a lot of head nodding, he entered the store (masked).

Also, my friend remained, arms crossed over his chest (which is more confrontational) and hung out with the staff person for about 20 minutes chatting. Three more times, he used the same language to defend her but they also observed together that people were less likely to yell at her with him standing there and she was grateful for the break. Interestingly – men were less likely to yell at her and passed by with grumbles, but women still felt completely comfortable to yell, including at my friend. (I would love to do a psychological study on that one).

So, in wrapping up:

Can you be the pleasant one, in whatever situation you find yourself in?

Can you embrace humor and find – and share – laughter in a world gone crazy?

If YOU are the one who is teetering so close to losing your cool, who can you ask for help? Whether that is helping you get groceries so you aren’t tempted to ram people with your cart or just talk with you about the things that are piling up?

Can we be that breath of fresh friendly air for someone else?

Can we help someone who is getting ready to melt down or protect someone (carefully) who is being verbally attacked?

It all starts with You – with US – each of us. We can be the spark for good or ill, and we must make a concerted effort to do just that.

I have an old purple T shirt that says “Build a Better World” in bright script. I’ve worn it for years without a comment, but recently, wearing it while traveling, many many people commented on it. Even a fun and friendly T shirt is a start.

Be well.

On Staying Connected to our Humanity

It has been said many times during these past months, but it cannot be stated enough: we are living through strange and trying times. Everything has changed, and many are certain that nothing will ever be the same again. As parks and recreation professionals, each of us in our different spheres have probably been questioning how we will respond as an industry and how our respective organizations will endure. If you work on the programming side of the profession, like me, you may have pondered how best to respond to ever changing political messages and restrictions to various activities, while still following a mandate to engage with our communities and provide quality outdoor experiences.  Many of us have risen to the occasion and begun to adapt our programs and approach.

The rush to adapt materials to digital platforms and connect with park users through alternate means has been necessary, but also fraught with many moments of productive struggle. Parks are about getting folks outside to experience the elements and to commune with one another while enjoying sports, concerts, hikes and many other types of activities. Encouraging people to learn and commune while being confined to their homes, has seemed disingenuous at times. Virtual nature hikes simply are not the same as being on a trail to physically observe the patterns that nature has to offer, and to be able to touch the various textures and take in all the different smells. But the times dictate that we must prevail, because we want to be there for our various communities, and we want to prove our value as Parks and Rec Professionals. Funders want to know that their dollars are being spent effectively, and we want to be able to demonstrate that.

While all this pressure weighs on our shoulders, I have had to remind myself to pause and reflect. I have even had to remind myself that the benefits of being outdoors are not just for park users, but they are also for me! These times can be stressful, and we need to be easy on ourselves. The following tips were recently published in the career column of the Nature Research Journal. I have adapted them:

Manage your expectations
These are new and different times. There will be times when you cannot concentrate. It is ok to take a walk and come back. Be easy on yourself and know that you need time to adjust to these new patterns.

Routine is your friend
Working from home can have us blurring the lines between work time and family time. Do your best to set specific times when you will be working, and try to stick to them.

Be compassionate with yourself and with others
We are all connected by the same struggles. We will all feel moments when we are overwhelmed. We have to give grace to others and to ourselves. Remember that we are all doing our best.

Maintain connections
All humans need connections for our mental as well as our physical health. Staff teams have instigated virtual coffee groups, online book clubs and co-working spaces where we can work in the (virtual) presence of others. We may be in social isolation, but we don’t need to feel alone. Stay connected to friends and make an effort to reach out to those who might be isolated.

Manage uncertainty by staying in the present
Focus on each moment right now. What are the tasks at hand for the day or even for the hour? Find ways to meditate and focus on breathing in and out for a few minutes an hour.

Most of all, I think that we need to support one another professionally as well as personally. Find ways to share our struggles and our triumphs. Reach out to one another to share about our work, but let’s also share our humanness with one another.

Camila Rivera-Tinsley, Director of Education,
The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

Parks and Rec in the Time of Corona

Love in the Time of Cholera, written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez in 1985, has become a modern literary classic. It follows a young couple in love, torn apart multiple times by fathers, communities, circumstances, infidelity, who in the end somehow see all those scars as beautiful experiences and grow old together. The book’s title is completely misleading, cholera only plays a minor part in the story. The coronavirus is not playing a minor role in our story right now.

The coronavirus has come in like a thief in the night, virtually by day break changing they way Americans see and interact with the world around them. So much of what we do as park and recreation professionals relies on people wanting and needing to be near each other, and that is just not an option right now.

I wish I had answers for every question swirling in my head, because I know the PRPS membership has the very same questions. We are still vital. We are still essential. One only has to look at the crazy spike in trail use across Pennsylvania to see that our residents still need our parks in their lives. Programming is the hurdle, day to day, that’s what we do. One could argue that our programming efforts are MORE important now than ever. With families stuck inside 24/7, we can play an integral role in making that a beautiful experience rather than a destructive one. Convert as much as you can to online platforms and get active in new ways, host a food drive or maybe create a COVID mask sewing group.

But it can’t stop there. I ask you to do two more things.

One, tell your Township Managers and elected officials about your programming and have residents email them that what you are doing is vitally important. Literally, email residents and say “please email the Township Supervisors” that this Teddy Bear Hunt was important to your six year old. How many of us have been to a Supervisors meeting and seen decisions flipped or postponed based on one resident’s opinion in the crowd? I certainly have. Plant that resident.

And two, share your programming and communication ideas, successes and failures with your fellow PRPS members. Whether that is simply through your neighboring municipalities, a PRPS District or through the Facebook “What’s Up P & R” page we are collectively Stronger Together.

I am an eternally positive person, and I know we will come out better for this “Parks and Rec in the Time of Corona” experience. But we do have a dogfight ahead of us. Our residents need us right now. Our families need us right now, and we need each other right now. Let’s roll up our sleeves and be Stronger Together.

Take care!


Creating Steps to a Healthier You through WalkWorks

Walking—we do it every day. When we want to get somewhere, we walk. Sure, we may incorporate other modes of transportation into our lives, such as driving a car, riding a bike or using public transit, but we start and end every trip by walking.

We also choose our walking speed. When we have to get somewhere quickly, we speed walk. When we take the dog out or want to experience the outdoors, our pace slows. Walking is one of the simplest and easiest forms of physical activity – it’s free and requires no special equipment or athletic skill.

Yet, in 2017, one quarter of Pennsylvania adults indicated participating in no physical activity in the past month, while more than two thirds of adults were overweight or obese. Walking is an important part of our lives and can improve our overall health. Health benefits of walking include helping to control weight, reducing the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and enhancing mental well-being.

Why don’t we walk more?

In many locations across Pennsylvania, lack of access to areas where residents can safely walk or bicycle is cited as one of the reasons for poor physical health. Communities and their streets were rarely designed to enable simultaneous, safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders. However, streets designed for all modes of transportation, called Complete Streets, make it easier to cross the street, get to school, walk to shops, or bicycle to work and, therefore, are associated with increased physical activity. Complete Streets not only promotes good health and creates health equity, but it can also stimulate the local economy, improve road safety, reduce the amount of air pollution and improve mobility for children and older individuals.

WalkWorks – What is it?

To encourage walking and help more Pennsylvanians meet the national guidelines which call for adults to get at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week, the Pennsylvania Department of Health developed WalkWorks. WalkWorks seeks to encourage communities to support physical activity by promoting active transportation through the implementation of community-based walking routes and the development of plans or policies related to active transportation. Here are two upcoming opportunities to partner with WalkWorks:

WalkWorks affiliate program

Local community-based organizations interested in improving the health status of their communities can apply to become a WalkWorks affiliate. Joining the 89 walking routes in 21 counties across Pennsylvania, selected community-based partners:

• Identify a walking route and points of interests;

• Engage community stakeholders;

• Collaborate with community organizations; and

• Organize a kick-off celebration.

While a specific date to release the affiliate application has not yet been determined, it is expected to be released in August or September. To see if the application has been released, please visit the WalkWorks website.

Marcus Hook walking route, Delaware County

WalkWorks funding for active transportation plans or policies

Municipalities and similar types of local government organizations interested in enhancing active transportation through plans or policies can apply for WalkWorks funding to develop plans or policies that begin to prioritize active transportation. This funding opportunity, which will open on or around August 1, creates or enhances pedestrian and bicycle connections to common community destinations that allow people to recreate, shop, explore or socialize safely and conveniently. To view the application or apply, please visit the WalkWorks website after August 1.

Whether you are a community resident looking for opportunities to increase your physical activity or a local government official looking to improve the walkability and connectivity of your community, WalkWorks has resources, guides and funding opportunities that can help improve the overall health of your community.

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