Spring Is In Bloom

A young man rides his bike past some Pioneer Park trees in full bloom, Thursday afternoon, April 22, 2021.

The City of Walla Walla, the City of College Place and the Blue Zones Project Walla Walla Valley invite residents to participate in a walkability assessment of neighborhoods with city and county leaders this week.

Walkability is a measure of how conducive an area is to people-powered transportation like walking or biking.

Participants will join their community members in identifying characteristics of physical environments in Walla Walla and College Place that encourage active transportation and learn how their city leaders are striving to make the Valley’s environment safer and more accessible to bikers and walkers.

Past infrastructure upgrades that improve conditions for pedestrians and cyclists include improved sidewalks and bike lanes, upgraded lighting and signage, tree cover and natural barriers.

“The walkability assessment provides an opportunity to celebrate our successes toward constructing complete streets and active transportation networks while reviewing the wide array of projects still needed to make the city a truly walkable community,” said Michael Rizzitiello, College Place city administrator.

The assessment that took place on Monday, June 14, explored the Isaacs Ave reconstruction which the American Public Works Association Washington State Chapter awarded a Project of the Year award.

“Isaacs Avenue is an example of how the city of Walla Walla’s Complete Streets policy elevates multi-modal accessibility to meet the needs of bicyclists, transit users and residents of all ages and abilities,” city of Walla Walla Public Works director Ki Bealey said.

The activities that Bealey refers to are not only ways residents can travel to and from their destinations, but are also ways to reduce the impacts of vehicle transportation like traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions.

Areas that invite residents to walk or bike also support community health by providing opportunities for exercise, encouraging active lifestyles and reducing risk of chronic disease.

“Moving naturally—like walking or biking—is a core area of focus for Blue Zones Project,” said Meghan DeBolt, executive director of Blue Zones Project Walla Walla Valley. “Walking is one of the easiest and more affordable ways to improve physical activity and promote a healthier lifestyle.” Research shows walkable streets and neighborhoods bring residents together, get people moving naturally, invigorate community and foster prosperity."

These walkability assessments are part of a series of Blue Zones Project Walla Walla Valley sponsored events this June. Every week, the events will focus on a core theme: Connect, Eat Wisely, Move Naturally and Right Outlook.

Blue Zones Project is designed to make healthy choices easier through permanent and semi-permanent changes to a community’s built environment, public policies and social networks.

“We are excited to work with our city partners to support existing and future projects that will increase neighborhood connectivity and active transportation opportunities for all individuals within the valley,” said Emily Brown, public policy advocate, Blue Zones Project Walla Walla Valley.

The last of the three walkability assessments occuring this week, is from 11a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturday, June 19, leaving from Children’s Home Society of Washington parking lot off Tietan Street.

This assessment will be followed by a free bike safety event at the Children’s Home Society where participants can win prizes and participate in family-friendly activities.

There is no cost to participate in these assessments but prior registration is required. To register visit wwvalley.bluezonesproject.com/kickoff. Spanish translation is available at all assessments. For registration in Spanish, visit wwvalley.bluezonesproject.com/es/events.

To learn more about Blue Zones Project Walla Walla Valley visit wwvalley.bluezonesproject.com or email the local team at BZPWallaWallaValley@sharecare.com.

Contact the Union-Bulletin's reporting intern Elea Besse at eleabesse@wwub.com.

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