How former Iowa Walking College fellows are making a difference in their communities
One year after being immersed in the Iowa Walking College program, 15 Iowans are now implementing their action plans in the communities where they live and work.
Last spring, the Iowa Healthiest State Initiative chose fellows who represented 14 communities across 13 counties. The 2017 Iowa Walking College kicked off in May and continued through the summer, wrapping up in September.
2018 Walking College fellows learn how to conduct a walking audit and sidewalk assessment.
The Iowa Walking College was launched as a pilot in 2016. The program is designed to train local change agents to help make communities statewide more walkable and livable. The 2018 fellows are currently undergoing the training via online seminars and in-person meetings. Applications for the 2019 class will open early next year.
Here are just a few of the success stories from the 2017 fellows:
April Bril, northeast Iowa
April Bril serves as the Regional Safe Routes to School Coordinator for the Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission. Bril was already working on walkability efforts in northeast Iowa but wanted to expand her knowledge in active transportation and connect with other like-minded professionals.
- Decorah in is now in the process of completing the Iowa Living Roadway's Community Visioning Program.
- Oelwein and Waukon partnered with Upper Explorerland and Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative to host "Beat the Blues Winter Marathon." Their efforts earned the communities a mini-grant to offer additional public walks.
- Decorah’s Community Visioning Process has hosted public workshops and have several walking and bike safety projects in the works, to be completed by Fall 2018.
Community members take part in the Waukon Winter Marathon Closing Ceremony Celebration.
Angela Drent, Sergeant Bluff
Angela Drent, a Health Planner at Siouxland District Health Department, credits the Walking College for giving her the tools to not only conduct walk audits in her surrounding communities, but also engage decision makers to effect change. The program also provided Drent an opportunity to brainstorm and build relationships with other walking advocates.
- Following a walk audit, both big and small changes were implemented — from trimming trees that were covering signs and sidewalk repairs that were trip hazards to installing a covered bus station with sidewalk access.
- The coalition in Sergeant Bluff also provided recommendations to update the sidewalk and subdivision ordinance to the city's planning and zoning commission. In May, the City Council passed the ordinance revisions, which focused on new sidewalk creation and accessibility.
A new bus stop shelter and a sidewalk to the shelter were added in Sergeant Bluff.
Christina McDonough, Scott County
As the Community Transformation Consultant for the Scott County Health Department, Christina McDonough wanted to learn how to better serve the various communities in the county. The department's focus is to make it easier to live healthy by making environmental changes.
- A paint sprayer was purchased for Walcott so the city can paint their own crosswalk markings.
- Community organizations have received training on how to conduct walk audits and sidewalk assessments to ensure accessibility for all residents. A recent walk audit in Princeton included a community member who uses a wheelchair. He serves as the community's sidewalks and trail committee chair.
- The department created a Comprehensive Sidewalk Policy sample for communities to adopt when a Complete Streets Policy might be too vast.
A group of community members in Princeton completed a walking audit together.
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This article may be updated with more success stories from previous Iowa Walking College fellows.