The city of Walla Walla and more than two dozen partners behind a regionwide trails vision have been lauded by the governor with a 2019 Smart Communities Award.

The project is one of 13 in six categories announced Friday.

The 14th annual awards recognize achievements by local leaders to promote “smart growth planning and projects that contribute to thriving communities, a prosperous economy, and sustainable infrastructure in Washington,” the announcement said.

“Creativity, collaboration and public engagement are key to ensuring that communities are successful in meeting future growth and prosperity goals,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a prepared statement. “This year’s award-winning plans and projects exemplify some of the reasons why Washington is consistently ranked one of the best states in America.”

Walla Walla was recognized in the “Smart Partnership Award” category, which includes achievements by a joint public project that implements a comprehensive plan.

The Blue Mountain Trails Plan was developed over a 16-month period with 30 city, county, regional, state, federal and tribal entities. It was finished in February 2018.

The plan outlines a regionwide, nonmotorized transportation and trails network that crosses the state line between Southeastern Washington and Northeastern Oregon. The idea is to encourage walking, biking and hiking in a system that simultaneously increases quality of life, provides more access to outdoor recreation and stimulates economic development.

Other categories include Smart Vision Award, Smart Choices Award, Smart Projects Award, a Judges’ Merit Award, and for the first time a Smart Housing Strategies Award that recognizes creative plans, policies, programs and/or actions around affordable housing.

“This year’s Smart Communities Award Winners recognize that effective growth planning cultivates strong communities by supporting good jobs, affordable housing, reliable infrastructure and innovation for a clean, healthy future,” Commerce Director Lisa Brown said in the announcement. “These are some of the key attributes that give Washington its unique sense of place and quality of life.”

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