Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Get out and Get Active: Waukesha County's Role in Building Healthy and Livable Communities

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Get out and Get Active: Waukesha County's Role in Building Healthy and Livable Communities

Article excerpt

For several years, Waukesha County has ranked high as a healthy place to live, work and play, and it offers a great balance of communities, businesses, parks and open space, and resources. We are continually trying to improve and, in recent years, have focused on increasing access to and awareness of the many ways for people to stay active and improve their health. The last five words of our County Department of Parks and Land Use's mission statement is, "the health of its citizens."

Creating healthy places to live, work and play includes comprehensive planning and design. This occurs at several levels of our county and local municipalities, and uses the skills and knowledge of our staff of landscape architects and planners. Our efforts, coordinated with state agencies such as the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Wisconsin Department of Transportation and Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, allow for synergetic discussion, priorities and solutions. Comprehensive Park and Open Space Plans, and site-specific Master Plans developed by our staff and teams offer short- and long-term solutions that promote:

* Improved access to active opportunities and healthy choices

* Active living and play benefits awareness through multiple partnerships

* Lean and efficient operations, with the focus on sustainability and enhanced revenue opportunities

2012 to 2015 Initiatives

Collecting data, creating benchmarks and documenting progress are important elements of aligning agencies with potential funding sources. Waukesha County regularly updates its National Public Health Performance Standards Program (NPHPSP) and Local Public Health System Performance Assessment. This data allows us to understand opportunities for improvement and partnerships offering new avenues to educate and promote healthy and active living. Partnerships between health and park and recreation agencies offer a great opportunity for improving long-term health solutions.

Our marketing theme for 2012 was, "Just Beyond Your Backyard," playing on NRPA's "America's Backyard" theme. All year, outreach to and education for our citizens focused on communicating the accessibility of our parks and facilities to the public, improving our outreach to volunteers and youth and connecting to area businesses.

At the December 2012 Workshop for Active Communities in the State of Wisconsin, agency teams discussed strategies for building places, programs and partnerships to promote more healthy and livable communities. And, for 2013, we launched the following 13 Great Ways to Better Health, promoting our park system:

1. Find and explore two new parks each season.

2. Walk a new trail each month.

3. Bike a trail twice a month.

4. Swim at every one of the six beaches.

5. Picnic at each of the eight major parks.

6. Enjoy a nature or bird watching hike at the Retzer Nature Center.

7. Play with your dog at one of the dog exercise areas.

8. Try the new mountain bike trails at Minooka Park (2014 host of the inaugural State of Wisconsin High School Mountain Bike Series)

9. Volunteer for an event/workday in the parks.

10. Run or snowshoe on a trail twice a week.

11. Go camping.

12. Go sledding.

13. Discover ice skating at one of the ice arenas.

In 2014 and 2015, Waukesha County launched "How We Play, Where We Play, and Why We Play" to promote the park system and active play opportunities. …

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