By Lucy Connery

Health Promotion Specialist, Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo

The WNY Walks! Initiative inter-sector partnership held its first annual Walkability Summit June 13th and 14th with the goal to increase community social capital while addressing walkability and increased regular physical activity in WNY. The Summit unfolded as expected as it promoted networking across multiple sectors (civic, public, private, and non-profit), raised community awareness by sharing best practices on creating walkable communities and improving physical activity. Another direct outcome of the Summit is the formation of the WNY Walks! Community Advocacy Team (CAT) and the formation of a draft strategic plan to initiate change in walkability and improved physical activity. The Summit featured keynotes Dr. Ian Thomas of America Walks and Amanda O’Rourke, Executive Director of 8-80 Cities in Toronto. The speakers spoke passionately and helped attract developers, planners, citizens, officials, students and media, bringing many different perspectives to the table.

Attendees participated in brainstorming breakout sessions to draft The WNY Walks! strategic plan that will address regional walkable communities and improved physical activities in rural, urban and suburban communities. The variety of perspectives and experiences will help the WNY Walks! Team to continue the on-going, year round initiative to improve ability to engage in regular physical activity around Western New York.

The Strategic Plan draft will be reviewed by members of the WNY Walks! Community Advocacy Team (CAT) to create a culture-changing plan to be implemented throughout the 2019-20 year. This strategic plan will officially launch in Fall 2019. The WNY Walks! CAT will meet in mid-July to begin its work; the team will continue initiatives similar to that of the Downtown Wednesday noontime walks series, while supporting other organizations’ policy change efforts and facilitating sustainable changes in our communities to improve the ability to achieve new levels of health, wellness and fitness in WNY to positively impact our economy and quality of life.

For more information on the WNY Walks! Initiative or the Summit, visit CreatingHealthyCommunities.org. Please contact BeActive@City-Buffalo.org or call Phil Haberstro/Lucy Connery at (716)851-4052 with questions. Thank you!

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