Friday, February 17, 2023

Safe Routes Partnership Selects Schuylkill County’s VISION to Help Improve Local Park Access

From a competitive pool of nationwide applicants, the Safe Routes Partnership has selected Schuylkill County’s VISION to join Safe Routes to Parks Pennsylvania Activating Communities, a technical assistance program focused on improving safe and equitable local park access. 

As part of the program, the Borough of Shenandoah will be among four diverse communities based in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to receive training and coaching from the Safe Routes Partnership to develop an action plan for improving active travel to local parks and green spaces and implement early actions from the plan.

Safe Routes to Parks initiatives work to improve safety and security for people walking, bicycling, and rolling to parks and green spaces. This need is especially pronounced in neighborhoods and communities lacking infrastructure to support safe walking and bicycling; where violence and crime are prevalent; and where high rates of weight-related chronic disease are prevalent. Shenandoah is an Environmental Justice area defined by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protections as an area with a census tract where at least 20 percent of the population lives in poverty, and/or 30 percent or more of the population is minority. Within the borough limits are two community parks and school district that require a large portion of the population to access the parks and schools along state maintain roadways. 

The Safe Routes to Parks Pennsylvania Activating Communities program aims to remove barriers that make it challenging for people to enjoy the physical, social, and mental health benefits that parks offer and proactively work toward ensuring safe, secure access to parks and open spaces. Over the long term, with increased safety and accessibility, Safe Routes to Parks seeks to increase park usage and improve health for people of all ages, races, abilities, and income levels.

“VISION is excited to bring this program to Shenandoah to improve the community’s parks and access to them through infrastructure improvements, clean-up efforts, and policy recommendations. It is our hope that the action planning process will identify key barriers to connecting residents to parks and safe areas to recreate and provide viable solutions to address the barriers. Additionally, we look forward to the assistance from Safe Routes Partnership to develop an action plan that can be used to not only address barriers but identify funding opportunities to continue the work initiated through this process. In 2014, VISION expanded their Healthy Schuylkill Communities program into Shenandoah to address access to healthy foods and opportunities for increased physical activity. Some projects completed in the past include four PA WalkWorks routes in the borough, health fairs, and park clean ups. We look forward to bringing community member previously involved to the table and inviting new members to assess the borough and develop an action plan with sustainable steps to improve the health and wellbeing for borough residents, businesses, employees, and visitors.” Mandy Fitzpatrick, Executive Director, Schuylkill County’s VISION.