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Determining ‘Walkability’ Factor; Making Safer and Healthier Neighborhoods

Healthy Living Alliance
Credit: Healthy Living Alliance

Safer neighborhoods and healthier people.  Brainstorming just how to make that happen is what the Healthy Living Alliance and its Springfield partners plan to do.  KSMU’s Theresa Bettmann spoke with organizers to learn more.

[sound of footsteps]

So what is “walkability?”

“That’s a great question.”

That’s Allison Wilson, program manager for the Healthy Living Alliance.

“I think people often just think it [walkability] means sidewalks or it just means bike lanes.  And those things are very important.  But also we’re talking at land use. Are there vacant houses?  Do people feel safe?  Is the quality of the neighborhood clean? What’s the environment like socially?  Do people feel like they can go outside and know their neighbors, or are there issues,” Wilson asks.

Wilson says the Healthy Living Alliance began the “Walkability Project” just a few months ago to bring together area agencies already invested in neighborhood improvement.  Partners include the City of Springfield, Missouri State University, Springfield Public Schools, League of Women Voters, Community Partnership of the Ozarks and the Springfield Health Department. 

Wilson says those who live and work in the neighborhoods are the real local “experts,” and encourages their participation in the project.  She explains how the project will also include kids’ perspectives through Photo Voice. 

“That’s a way for the youth to get their viewpoint out.  And we really think that’s a key part.  They really get to own the projects and basically they can go out and take pictures of what they want to see change. Then they brainstorm ideas for change,” says Wilson.

Photo Voice is a state-wide initiative that uses captioned photos taken by youth organizations to illustrate local concerns.  Wilson explains the program uses kids in grades five through 12, and can be done in schools or various youth groups.

Patty Cantrell is the director of the Healthy Living Alliance.  She says creating better, safer and more inviting neighborhoods benefits older and younger generations alike.

“People come together.  You know, it creates that quality of life and neighborhood feeling that then makes families and business invest in neighborhoods,” Cantrell says.

The Walkability Project currently includes six Springfield neighborhoods.  Assessments will begin in the fall with improvements to follow next spring.  Both Wilson and Cantrell invite any neighborhoods wishing to get involved to contact the Healthy Living Alliance.

For KSMU News, I’m Theresa Bettmann.

 Click here for a link to The Healthy Living Alliance Springfield