Building an Active Transportation Plan for the Township of Georgian Bay
By Brittney Hillier, Public Health Nurse, Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit
There is increasing awareness of the health, social, economic and environmental benefits associated with active transportation (A.T.). There is also movement toward creating complete communities that encourage human-powered transportation such as walking and cycling as part of everyday activity. A healthy community provides opportunities for sidewalks, trails, and bike lanes that are inviting, accessible, safe, and connected.
When the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit invited applications for municipalities to partner on hosting an A.T. workshop, the Township of Georgian Bay was eager to get involved. A planning team was formed and the team sought the services of HC Link consultant, Paul Young.
Paul worked with our team to plan and conduct a one-day workshop with the goal of developing a comprehensive action plan to support A.T. within the Township. A group of 25 people, including representatives from business, municipal staff and various community organizations attended. They were inspired by a showcase of great work already underway in the Township and in other municipalities. Then we worked through an exercise to identify key next steps that would improve A.T. in the Township.
Paul did a tremendous job explaining the concept of a healthy, built environment and how A.T. fit into this picture. He kept breakout groups focused and on task. At the end of the day we had a solid action plan, complete with proposed map routes and priorities. He also encouraged sustainability by promoting a follow-up meeting and getting individuals to take on specific tasks to keep things moving forward. The group is keen to keep meeting, collaborating, and strengthening partnerships for healthy, connected and active communities.
“I was energized by the diverse turnout. There were representatives from the tourism sector, senior’s agencies, teachers, residents, trails groups, municipal staff and elected officials – all in one room working towards a common goal. People shared some great ideas about the importance of improving conditions for non-motorized transportation - walking and cycling and even canoeing.”
– Paul Young, Consulant
Kevin Datema, Manager of Public Works/Facilities, Parks and Recreation, and Jennifer Schnier, Economic Development Officer from the Township were heavily involved with the planning and implementation of the workshop, and commented that, “the workshop allowed staff at the Township of Georgian Bay the opportunity to glean community comments to drive the initiative of active transportation and to address many of the community’s needs and concerns. It enabled our communities to address active living, safety and environmental preservation. The collective workshop approach between the Township of Georgian Bay and Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit was extremely beneficial.”
The Township is moving forward with their action plan to improve cycling, walking, and accessibility in the communities of Port Severn, Honey Harbour, and MacTier. Proposed A.T. infrastructure emanating from the A.T. workshop and plan will be going forward for consideration in the 2012 capital budget. The Township is also working in tandem with the District of Muskoka on A.T. strategy planning and development.
I feel very privileged to be working closely with so many dedicated individuals as partnerships are vital to influencing sustainable change and for building healthy, connected, and complete communities.