West Shore Parks and Recreation wants to inspire area residents to implement healthier modes of transportation.
Working toward that goal, it has invited numerous community stakeholders, councillors and community groups to take part in an Active Transportation Forum tomorrow (Feb. 20) at the Kinsmen Fieldhouse. The workshop will explore alternative methods to driving students to and from school and community hubs around the West Shore.
“(We hope) they leave the forum with action items and tools to implement a strategic plan within their community,” said West Shore Parks and Recreation community co-ordinator Bobbi Neal. “We focus on what other methods we can use, as opposed to driving up and dropping off, and how do you safely access them. Walk, ride skateboard, use another mode of transport in your community.”
Following a successful partnership with the Capital Regional District and the Inter-municipal Advisory Committee developing trails here, the hope is that attendees arm themselves with information they need to help mobilize the community, she said.
Many areas of the West Shore have transitioned or are in the process of moving from a rural setting to a more urban one, Neal added, and learning to move through them safely, especially for youth, is important.
The forum includes discussion around what community infrastructure is needed to promote active transportation, with possible initiatives including walking school buses, car-free days, bike groups and other exercise-oriented travel to high-traffic hubs.
“We have two new schools coming on board and (with) human nature being what it is, this is a time of change, so this is probably the easiest time to encourage people to look at a different mode of transport before they are entrenched in a set pattern or behaviour,” she said. “Those same concepts apply to going to the grocery store or recreation centre; (anywhere) we travel in our community.”
West Shore Parks and Rec. received a $5,700 CRD grant for the forum to help cover the cost of bringing in presenters from the Hub for Active School Travel (HASTe) group in Vancouver. HASTe partner Kerry Hamilton said their initiatives are all about education, activating kids, schools and communities through walking and cycling.
“I am so glad to hear communities that are growing and increasing and developing are taking this seriously and giving the time in the planning process to make this an important piece,” she said. “There is a really great trail system (on the West Shore) and it is about connecting community districts together … so people can get outside more.”
Langford park planner Jane Waters, Sooke School District Trustee Diana Seaton and others will also give presentations at the forum.
Hamilton will offer up some broad strategies to the full group for ways to discuss the issues in their community. A workshop at the end will see attendees break off into smaller groups to explore more specific action items and solution pieces for their communities. Doing so while infrastructure like sidewalks and bike lanes and forward-thinking active initiatives are being planned out can save money down the line, she said.
“If we can begin this conversation early in the game this saves some retrofitting,” Hamilton said. “Realizing active transport 20 years from now, which is where we are with most communities, we can have this conversation when we build our new high schools, elementary schools, our new community. Then we don’t have to go back and change it all.”