Why Watertown Stands Out
When passionate community members step up to create opportunities that get people walking and biking, it doesn’t take long to start seeing visible change. Get Healthy Watertown coalition members, along with two community champions, identified 20 different 1 to 3 mile walking routes, and have led community walks along these routes every Saturday morning for the past several years. They recently started asking city leaders to step up and lead more walks during the week, creating more opportunities to walk, and allowing civic officials to see the benefits of creating a walkable community.
Partnerships with the city’s engineering and parks and recreation departments allow coalition members to learn about and promote infrastructure safety improvement in some sidewalks and crosswalks along the routes. Coalition co-chairs Susan Wollin and Ashley Sullivan say it’s about raising awareness. “When we are aware of street improvements that impact safety, we have an opportunity to educate and advocate for pedestrian safety, which sometimes means writing letters to our elected officials.”
Formed as a result of a Community Health Assessment process, Get Healthy Watertown’s collaborative work and impacts continue to grow. In 2018, partners will install a large kiosk map to display the routes. To promote the walking route system, Watertown is exploring high tech (QR codes on signs and kiosks) and traditional methods (spiral bound maps distributed throughout community, workplace and childcare sites).
The coalition’s interest has also fostered other community projects, including Recycle Bicycle and an emerging Safe Routes to School campaign. Members have attended statewide active communities workshops, which led to support for the community Bicycle and Pedestrian Task Force, as well as an application to the national Bicycle Friendly Community Designation program (where they earned an honorable mention and set their sights towards future improvements).
Keep looking for big things coming from Watertown - a small city that’s on the move!
Approach to Equity
Through involvement in Community Health Assessment and Improvement processes and plans, Get Healthy Watertown coordinates with other local agencies and participates in ongoing monthly conversations with community residents about their needs and desires. Several coalition members represent agencies that work with marginalized populations, such as those experiencing poverty or homelessness, as well as aging populations and people with disabilities.
Additionally, the walking routes selected by Get Healthy Watertown were intentionally chosen to increase no-cost opportunities for physical activity in areas where other options are sparse. The coalition considers partnership-building, community conversations and grassroots involvement a key part of their efforts to narrow the gaps for those with less access. As with other Wisconsin Active Together communities, Get Healthy Watertown committed to explore use of an equity checklist going forward.
Strategy Action Snapshot
Local Action Strategies
Regular weekly or monthly community building rides or walks
Place physical walking/biking route maps in the community
Plans to Create simple community walking loops / trails with signage
Community Engagement Strategies
Create supporter email lists
Local official education (e.g., meetings, 1-pagers, walk/bike/ride transit with your Mayor
Connect trails across city or county lines in bicycle and pedestrian plans
Apply for walk or bike friendly designation
Plans to attend a statewide conference /summit on active transportation
Serve as a mentor to other communities
How to Help
Where they would like support or resources
Assistance in how to advocate for local complete streets and safe routes to school policy
More guidance on strategic communications