Why they stand out
The Tri-County Fox Valley region includes 22 local jurisdictions, each historically independent in the ways they’ve made active lifestyles available. As a result, the many opportunities that exist - from trail systems to events and programs - haven’t always been connected or coordinated. Enter Weight of the Fox Valley. Their coalition takes a strategic regional dot-connecting approach. They weave together partners’ resources, ideas and energy, to achieve a large-scale increase in opportunities for walking and biking (in addition to extensive work to address healthy food system access).
A consortium of high-level leaders across local government, industry, healthcare, non-profit and other key sectors established Weight of the Fox Valley in 2013, setting the stage for strong progress in just a few years.
What does their innovative dot-connecting look like? The coalition works with regional, county and local governments to encourage and support Complete Streets policy adoption and implementation. This strategy arose after working with local governments on resolutions of support for the regional bicycle and pedestrian plan, and was further bolstered by a nationally-competitive Complete Streets technical assistance award received by the East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (ECRPC).
Additionally, Weight of the Fox Valley linked many local government partners into ECRPC’s process to co-design a regional wayfinding signage system, which has inspired a collaborative approach towards funding and implementation. When complete, visually appealing signage will make it easier for people to find local destinations, and also highlight elements each community’s local identity. Finally, the coalition connects groups who organize many active living events and programs across the area, and is able to cross-promote these resources to wider audiences.
Taken together, Weight of the Fox Valley’s regional approach is creating a culture of walking and biking in one of our state’s most populous regions, and providing a map that other regions can follow.
Approach to Equity
In many communities, not just in the Fox Valley, people who want or need to walk and bike may face incomplete, dangerous or time consuming challenges in getting to the places they need to go. For example, the regional bike/ped network and transit system has gaps, and many parks which feature free or low-costs opportunities for physical activity aren’t easily accessible by foot or bike.
Keeping these factors in mind, Weight of the Fox Valley’s current focus on equity ties to their Complete Streets policy efforts. In advancing Complete Streets policies to create safer and better connected networks for people who walk, bike and use transit, they plan to engage with communities that most lack safe connections, and identify ways for residents to get involved in advocating for a policy and implementation that benefits them.