JULY 3rd, 2018 Simcoe, ON – Working with community partners and volunteers is a huge asset for the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit (HNHU). Ten years of dedicated engagement with Norfolk Pathways for People, a community coalition that advocates for the development and improvement of connected pathways, is worth celebrating.
Encouraging healthy, active living has long been a public health mandate. Getting that message out was easy but ensuring people had safe places to walk and cycle was a new route to explore. “About 15 years ago, public health units across Ontario refined their efforts when it came to promoting physical activity. Rather than focusing on the individual and their personal choices to be active, we started looking at the environments where people live, work and play,” said Michele Crowley, health promoter with the HNHU. “We started talking about walkable communities, where walking routes are safe, direct, comfortable and convenient for all pedestrians. Things like street lighting, availability of continuous sidewalks and a variety of shops, services, parks, schools and workplaces within walking distance of homes, all contribute to a walkable community.”
Some community outreach to find members of the public who also saw the value of walkable communities led us to the establishment of Norfolk Pathways for People. Gord Mason, current chair of Pathways for People, first learned of the group by participating in the Discover Norfolk walk series, led every summer by the Community Services Division. “I’ve always enjoyed walking for my personal health,” said Mason. “And when you try to walk within your community, you can clearly see where improvements would make the experience safer, more enjoyable and worth leaving the car at home.”
Frank Woodcock came to the table as a representative of the Waterford Heritage Trail committee. “I was immediately intrigued by what the health unit was trying to start up. As an active supporter of the Waterford Heritage Trail, and a walker, jogger and bike rider, it was easy to see the vision,” said Woodcock. “I’m pretty proud of the many initiatives we have undertaken in the last ten years, including the extra promotion of the local trails. Our trail network in Waterford is a prime example of an environment that supports walking and cycling.”
In the early years, volunteers were keen to plan and host public trail events. Interests have since expanded and members now take an active role in public consultations and advocate in a variety of ways to support walking and cycling, also known as active transportation.
The group’s impressive resume also includes participating in open streets events; writing letters of support and making deputations to Council; publishing a newsletter three times a year; and ensuring an online presence with a website and Facebook account.
Highlights from the last 10 years include:
- Consultation on Norfolk County’s Active Transportation Strategy ~ 2016
- Development of an Advocacy Toolkit ~ 2015
- Creation of an online petition in support of paved shoulders as part of the reconstruction of the Long Point Causeway ~ 2015
- Introduction of the Share the Road project to Norfolk County ~ 2010
- Celebration of 2010 World Health Day with an Open Streets event in Port Dover
Through their efforts, Norfolk Pathways for People have established collaborative working relationships with other county departments including Roads, Engineering, Parks, Facilities and Recreation, Planning, Tourism and Corporate Support Services – Accessibility.
“Pathways for People and Norfolk County’s Accessibility Advisory Committee share similar goals,” said Shelby Verkindt, supervisor, Accessibility Compliance and Customer Communications. “Over the past ten years, we have joined forces in our advocacy work to link pedestrian networks throughout the county, being mindful not to create new barriers or exclude participation of people with disabilities.”
Norfolk Pathways for People volunteers, past and present, will be attending Norfolk Council on July 3rd to receive a certificate of recognition for their dedication to making walking and cycling safer in Norfolk County. The Haldimand- Norfolk Health Unit looks forward to the continuation of this great community partnership.
For more information about Norfolk Pathways for People, visit: www.norfolkpathways.ca or contact Michele Crowley at 519-426-6170 Ext. 3239 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit Norfolk Pathways for People on Facebook.
Michelle Lyne, Program Manager for Community Health
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
519-426-6170 Ext. 3238