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July 14, 2016 6:46 PMCategory: Physical Activity

Wayfinding in Greater Helena, Montana

County seal

The Greater Helena area hosts an extensive biking and hiking trail system as well as the beautiful vistas and breathtaking views that make those tough climbs worth the effort.

Not all residents, however, are able to access trails—and not all residents think of using the trail system when it comes to daily commuting or errand running.  According to the American Community Survey Report 2009-2013 average, only 4.3 percent and 1.6 percent of workers walk or bike to work.  But, if the right resources were available, nearly 60 percent of workers indicated that they would give active transportation a try.

The Healthy Communities Coalition, a member of the second cohort of Plan4Health, is tackling chronic disease prevention by guiding people to physical activity opportunities.  The coalition is developing an Active Living Wayfinding System to help align the recently revised Greater Helena Area Transportation Plan, the City of Helena Growth Policy, the Lewis and Clark County Growth Policy, and the Downtown Helena Master Plan.   Feet

It’s not enough to have a great trail network.  Residents have to know it’s there and feel comfortable using the system—and that’s where wayfinding makes an impact.

Wayfinding is more than just signs telling you which way to turn or where you are on the trail.  Wayfinding is about creating community and connectivity, making amenities, like parks and trails, accessible to residents regardless of ability.

The coalition has made residents who may face additional challenges to accessing the system a priority.  Leveraging support from the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors, the coalition completed an accessibility audit and is continuing to gather input from the community.

“We want to reach all members of our community.  From seniors and students to residents with low vision or those who have special needs, we want to make sure that everyone has a voice in designing this system, so everyone will want to use the system,” says Karen Lane, the Prevention Programs Manager with Lewis and Clark Public Health.

Bike TowerThe coalition and community members are also planning a few fun activities in July.  Everything from a “railroad rendezvous” to using orange bikes as a wayfinding symbol is fair game as the team works to raise awareness about opportunities for physical activity.

“We are planning to show residents how the trail system provides a shortcut and actually makes it easier to get across the city,” says Laura Erikson, Community Development Coordinator with Lewis and Clark County.

The work of the Healthy Communities Coalition in Lewis and Clark County is just one example of how to connect parks and recreation with public health.  Read more about this growing trend in Parks and Recreation Magazine: Breaking Down Barriers: Parks and Recreation Connecting with Public Health—and join Plan4Health coalitions across the country celebrating National Park & Recreation Month.
Bike Helena


Interested in learning more about wayfinding?  Join the Plan4Health community and Katie Osborn of Via Collective for an introduction to wayfinding and health on Wednesday, July 27th at 3pm EST. Register here!

Images from the Helena Bike Tower ProjectBike Walk Helena, and Lewis and Clark County.

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