La crosse region
Why they stand out
The La Crosse region has been ‘active together’ for a long time, as home to some of Wisconsin’s early adopters of policies making it easy to walk, bike and be active. Throughout the 1970s and 80s, locals formed an active chapter of a national cycling group, with frequent events. In later decades, advocates developed a bicycle pedestrian master plan and oversight committees, were awarded a Silver Bicycle Friendly Community designation, adopted Complete Streets policies at several levels and developed a regional Safe Routes to School initiative.
Additionally, organizations like the County Health Department, health care systems, and school districts -- as well as the outdoor recreation community -- have long worked collaboratively to plan and promote events. They’ve worked to promote walking and bicycling across worksites, schools and community settings. All of these assets and partnerships have compounded into strong outcomes - including some of the state’s highest rates of walking and biking, and a diverse and vibrant collection of advocacy groups.
The La Crosse Area Family YMCA has been a driver of regional collaboration outside the organization’s 4 walls, helping to bridge multiple cross-jurisdictional organizations and to focus their collective strengths into action. For instance, their Pioneering Healthier Communities coalition took an early lead in installing downtown bike racks, and assessed the feasibility of a docked bike share system. That feasibility study paved the way for proposals for dockless bike share currently under review by the city and local universities. The YMCA is part of a regional ecosystem that has allowed multiple leaders from different sectors to step up and carry the torch as needed.
Thanks to collaborative leadership coming from many places, the region is in a good position to take several bold next steps - including building strategic segments to unify a multi-use path network, and examining zoning requirements around parking that could transform the use of public space for transportation and housing. Look for La Crosse to continue its tradition of being at the forefront of policies making it easy for people to walk, bike and be active across the region.
Approach to Equity
As an organization that bridges multiple partners and works to catalyze action, the La Crosse Area Family YMCA thinks about its role in addressing equity internally and how their leadership further influences equity within the community. From offering scholarships and financial assistance so that no one is turned away from membership based on need, to building relationships with community members and expanding the diversity of their leadership team, the YMCA is seen as ‘walking the talk’ and is known as one of the most racially and ethnically diverse gathering places in the community. They take action on issues that intersect active communities and equity; for example, advocating for safety improvements at a high-injury intersection that leads to its own Teen Center.
Other partners recognize the role that access to transportation systems and active environments plays in creating a community that works for all people, including the most disadvantaged populations. The City of La Crosse, for example, prioritizes improvement projects in neighborhoods where need is the greatest.