Why they stand out
Across Washington County, communities are building small, feasible “win-win’s” into larger success. In the city of West Bend, for example, advocates from Bike Friendly West Bend brought together local businesses with Moraine Park Technical College students, who designed and fabricated 33 customized racks with materials and funding that the businesses had donated. Besides attracting more patrons on bikes, the businesses see the new bike racks as an investment in quality-of-life that encourages the students and other skilled workers to put down roots in the community. Expanding the narrative to an economic development frame has allowed the community to make forward progress where the will exists. Partners expect to see more local success stories in West Bend and beyond, especially following Washington County’s June 2019 adoption of a bike network plan. The county’s Planning and Parks department led robust engagement process prior to that passage. A supportive county board formally set aside funding in 2019 and 2020, the first steps in their plans to put $1.25 million towards plan implementation over 5 years.
The Well Washington County coalition’s “Eat and Move Well Team” has played a critical role in countywide efforts since 2016, convening partners across sectors to identify local priorities and take action on solutions. Strides in recent years include a new Cycling Without Age program in collaboration with a local long-term care facility, summer bicycle safety education programs with over 13 activities, including a Bike-In outdoor movie event, and the launch of a new Safe Routes to School ‘Walking School Bus’ in 2019, with plans to expand to school districts across the county to serve both in-town and rural communities. Parks improvement has also been a focus, with the Parks Department spearheading efforts to bring free outdoor fitness equipment to one local park, in collaboration with the Kettle Moraine YMCA and health system partners. Additionally, recognizing a local priority around mental health, the group recently partnered with Cultivate, a community group focused on mental wellness, to create “Cultivate Wellness in Our Parks” which offers six weeks of Tai Chi, Meditation, and Laughter Yoga.
Washington County sees the community’s needs and continues to move in the right direction to address them. Keep moving Washington!
Approach to Equity
To complement its direct community wellness efforts, Washington County addresses inequitable opportunities for active living as it relates to socioeconomic status, geography, and ability status. Collaborating across sectors to expand access to programming for vulnerable residents in the county including youth, seniors, and rural residents is essential in the effort towards equity. Washington county has found that multi-sectoral partnerships allow them to better leverage resources and gain momentum in creating equitable active community efforts. The “Cultivate Wellness in Our Parks” initiative is a great example of how Washington County is providing better access to wellness opportunities for residents regardless of ability, age, and income. They continue to expand these efforts to areas outside the city of West Bend.
In addition to these equity efforts, Washington County is strategically planning to build partnerships with a local organization that serves the Latinx community. Well Washington County coalition hopes to collaborate with the community to overcome barriers by creating programs that meet that community’s needs. The Eat and Move Well action team is pushing on the coalition to be intentional about creating more equitable opportunities like this. They would like to implement tools and find mentors to learn how to embed equity into each decision they make as they expand programming opportunities.
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