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Promoting and Developing a Trail Network Across Suburban, Rural, and Urban Communities

      Background

      The Wyoming Valley Wellness Trails Partnership received an Active Living by Design grant late in 2003 for a project centered on a growing trail network linking urban, suburban, and rural communities in northeast Pennsylvania, a former coal region, in order to increase physical activity among residents.

      Intervention

      The partnership conducted research, collected information, created promotional documents, worked with partners on events and programs, and participated in trail planning. Local trail organizations continued planning and construction toward developing a trail network. Other partners spearheaded policy change in schools and worksites and worked toward downtown revitalization. The partnership assisted these efforts by providing a forum in which organizations could meet.

      Results

      The partnership became a central resource for information about local parks, trails, and outdoor recreational activities. The partnership increased awareness and use of recreational facilities. Trail partners constructed 22 miles of walking and biking trails. The partnership took advantage of an allied effort that created organizational capacity for wellness in schools and worksites.

      Lessons learned

      Messages promoting social and entertainment benefits of physical activity were more successful than those promoting health benefits. The existence of multiple small, independent trail organizations can help advance trail development through concurrent development efforts. Urban, suburban, and rural residents' conceptions of walkability may differ.

      Conclusions

      Trails provide options for recreational and transportation-related physical activity across urban, suburban, and rural landscapes that are supported by all constituents. Trail builders can be strong allies in bringing active living to suburban and rural places.
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