Wisconsin Walks!

Today is International Walk to School Day and schools across Wisconsin are participating! Over 120 schools to be exact! Search social media for #WalktoSchool or #WisconsinWalks for the latest happenings, pictures and events going on today.

In 1997, the Partnership for a Walkable America sponsored the first National Walk Our Children to School Day in Chicago. Since then, hundreds of thousands of kids across the country. Its become more than a one-day event as schools and community partners are working together to make it easier and safer for kids of all ages to walk and bike to school.

Speaking of walking, the US Surgeon General recently launched the Step it Up campaign to help make our communities more walkable and promote walking, recognizing the importance of physical activity for people of all ages and abilities.  This call to action asks Americans to be more physically active through walking and calls on the nation to better support walking and walkability. Improving walkability means that communities are created or enhanced to make it safe and easy to walk and that pedestrian activity is encouraged for all people.

WACA and our local and statewide partners are already working on many of the strategies prioritized by the call to action.  We are encouraged by the Surgeon General and by initiatives like Plan4Health through the American Planning Association. We know that how healthy you can be is partly influenced by how your community is designed. And we're working together to make it easier for everyone to walk, bike and be active!

Proposed budget cuts to walking and biking programs will affect opportunities for physical activity

Legislators will be meeting in May and June to start making decisions regarding the Wisconsin State Budget. Here's what you need to know:

The 2015-2017 proposed budget would:

  • Repeal Wisconsin's successful Complete Streets law. The law requires that bicyclists and pedestrians be taken into account whenever a road is built or reconstructed with state or federal funds. There are all manner of ways to get an exception if the project would be too expensive or if use by bikes and pedestrians is projected to be too light. The law works well in practice. Yet, the proposed budget would eliminate it altogether. This would mean many fewer safe places to bike.

  • Cut the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) by $2 million. The governor's proposed budget would eliminate all state support for this program, leaving only federal dollars. TAP is used for a variety of pro-biking initiatives, including bike plans and facilities, and Safe Routes to School Projects.

  • Essentially eliminate the Stewardship Fund. The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund (named for iconic Republican Governor Warren Knowles and Democratic Governor and Senator Gaylord Nelson) works to purchase and protect land for future generations. Funds for state trail purchases are included in the program. The governor's proposed budget would stop all purchases for over a decade.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can be involved in educating your community about the importance of these programs, please contact Jen gilchrist Walker at: gilchristwal@wisc.edu 

COACH Site Visit Held

The core team members of WACA had our second site visit for our COACH training through the Healthy WI Leadership Institute on April 15. We focused on setting a few action items including details for our monthly conference calls (4th Wednesday at 1pm) as well as had a few ideas about setting up a listserv or two to help us enhance our communication efforts. So watch for more posts from all of our WACA core team members in the coming weeks! The topics will span anywhere from the individual coalition coordinator, to local community work, to WACA itself, to the Active Communities Stakeholder group, to the WI Obesity Prevention Initiative (or WOPN). 

We want to share our learning process with others across the state that are doing similar work. Why re-invent the wheel, right?  So we are hard at work to figure out a systemized way to do that (is systemized a word?) as well as create a way for local voices to be engaged in changing the system in which we operate, AND be a part of the decision-making process when it comes to prioritizes and actions we take to help make walking, biking and being active happen in more WI communities.

Oh, and don't forget the most important part! We want to be able to learn from each other in the work we do! That's the peer-to-peer learning network. Local coalition coordinators are a wealth of knowledge and sometimes we feel like we are out there all on our own. WACA is trying to change that, little by little.

Stay tuned for more activity from the WACA core team, this website and a new listserv (and potentially some exciting action items related to complete streets).

Thanks for sticking with us!




Statewide Prioritization Meeting Held March 17

Thank you so much to all who expressed interest and/or were able to attend a very productive meeting on March 17th! We were thrilled with thoughtful discussion, engaged participation and resulting next steps. The details below provide an overview of meeting outcomes. 

Meeting Summary
Background: First, we set the stage with background info on active communities, collective impact, and current opportunities and challenges for this work. This included a small group activity to look at what’s happening now and what we envision for the future. 

Prioritization: Next, we led the group through a series of voting and ranking activities to ‘sift’ through a range of potential long-term strategies that would be highly impactful and require a broad range of stakeholders working together to accomplish. The outcomes of the prioritization processes are right in line with WACA's priorities so we are excited to see where these conversations lead!

WACA selected to join COACH, Partnering with UW

We've been accepted into the first co-hort of COACH (Collaborating, Organizing, and Advocating for Community Health) Program, part of the Healthy Wisconsin Leadership Institute (HWLI). This leadership training and assistance will build upon our experience with the HWLI Community Teams Program. We are excited to collaborate with the staff at HWLI and the other teams for the next 3 years as we continue to build WACA and more active communities across Wisconsin.

WACA is also partnering with the Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies and the School of Human Ecology at University of Wisconsin-Madison. We're working with a graduate-level community-based research class that will help us build some of our internal structures and well as think about a shared measurement system for all coalitions and organizations engaging in active communities work.

Exciting times!

Assistance from TWI

WACA would like to welcome Jen Walker from the Wisconsin Clearinghouse. She currently works with the Transform WI Project and is able to help us build the alliance and advance the active communities movement in the state. She'll be providing some internal support including project management and process development (fancy ways of saying she's a big help).

Thanks to the Clearinghouse for supporting the WI Active Communities Alliance!

Website Launch

We're excited to launch our new WACA website today!  Our hope is that it serves as a rallying point for communities across the state to get connected and not "reinvent the wheel."  We're particularly proud of our FRAMEWORK, a unifying toolkit that encourages work on four best practice strategies. 

Give us feedback on the new site, and if you're a community leader --- join us in our effort!

A special thanks goes out to Kyle Pfister and the Ninjas for Health for building our website so we can spread our ideas across Wisconsin, to Mark Fenton for laying some groundwork around this conversation and for providing a framework for our framework, to Kate Konkel and all of the staff at the Healthy Wisconsin Leadership Institute for giving us the tools and support to keep this project moving forward, and especially to Amanda Ostrowski from Marathon County Health Department for bringing our group together to work on something this awesome.