The Safe Routes Partnership is thrilled to introduce the four nonprofit organizations selected for the Pennsylvania Activating Communities cohort. Grantees were selected among applicants in the state of Pennsylvania to develop and initiate action plans to increase safe and equitable access to parks and green spaces in their communities.
The grantee communities will work closely with Safe Routes Partnership staff to proactively engage community members in the process of assessing park access, putting together an action plan to address barriers, and begin implementing that plan.
Meet the Grantees:
Bayfront Eastside Task Force
For the last forty years, the Bayfront East Side Task Force has worked to improve the quality of life for neighborhood residents in the eastside neighborhood of Bayfront East in Erie. Through community organizing and community building, they have worked to increase homeownership with low-and-middle income residents and revitalize blighted properties, converting them into neighborhood greenspaces and pocket parks, a community garden, and an orchard.
In a neighborhood where one in three households does not have access to a vehicle, Safe Routes to Parks is an opportunity to build on the efforts to increase greenspace and park access and engage with residents who would most benefit from improved connections to those neighborhood assets. Bayfront East Side Task Force also underscores a priority goal with their Safe Routes to Parks project is to work towards community-led solutions to address ongoing concerns of public safety and build towards a collective understanding of what safety means for an increasingly diverse neighborhood.
Bellefonte Historic Preservation Foundation
Bellefonte sits in the heart of Pennsylvania, nestled between several state parks and with hilly topography comparable to San Francisco. In this small, rural community, Bellefonte Historic Preservation Foundation (BHPF) has led and supported projects and improvements that enhance quality of life in a number of ways, including improved pedestrian connections that make walking safer and more comfortable in Bellefonte. Safer walking connections to downtown and the surrounding areas could increase foot traffic to cultural and historical assets, local parks, and locally owned businesses, not only contributing to the local economic vitality but also improving safety for their youth and aging population.
BHPF has identified several key parks in the area including Talleyrand Park, Krauss Park, Masullo Park, and Governor’s Park. A major challenge is parks that are located along heavily trafficked corridors that serve commuter traffic to surrounding towns. For BHPF, their Safe Routes to Parks project will be an opportunity to bridge resident and stakeholder engagement with multiple agency partnerships in identifying solutions and sustainable strategies for implementing and funding safer routes to these parks and addressing challenges to pedestrian safety along state-owned highways.
NeighborWorks Northeastern Pennsylvania
In Scranton, NeighborWorks has been driving planning efforts to revitalize the neighborhoods in the area of West Scranton. In 2020, NeighborWorks finalized a community plan whose broader community-identified vision highlights the need and desire for safe routes to local parks in West Scranton. For their Safe Routes to Parks project, NeighborWorks is building on this community plan to focus on improving pedestrian connections to four local parks, Novembrino Splash Pad, Allen Park, Jackson Street Skate Park, and Fellows Park, which are connected by the Main Avenue corridor. Traveling on foot, Main Avenue has several challenges like lack of sidewalks, high vehicle speeds, and lack of signage. With a community-wide focus on improving parks and investments in them, NeighborWorks wants to ensure that residents will be able to safely and conveniently get to these soon-to-be-improved parks by walking and biking. Leveraging strong partnerships and community relationships, the NeighborWorks team is well-poised to advance their initiative to improve safety along Main Avenue, collaborating with local and state agencies for solutions.
Schuylkill County’s VISION
Schuylkill County’s VISION has been an all-encompassing public health organization, leading and supporting the local community health needs assessment and connecting county residents with important health resources. As part of their work, since 2015, they have been working with Shenandoah, a former coal town and rural community in northern Schuylkill County to improve community health by improving nutrition and increasing rates of physical activity.
With their Safe Routes to Parks project, VISION is excited to amplify their past programming focused on organizing encouragement activities and regular walking groups with policies, systems, and environmental change solutions that can make a significant impact on improving walkability and access to local parks in Shenandoah. Having already completed preliminary assessments of walking routes, it’s clear that challenges like speed along state highways, damaged and incomplete sidewalks, and unsafe intersections are barriers to accessing three of the local parks – Bicentennial Park, Vine Street Park, and Gerard Park. Using this project as a focal point, VISION is eager to re-ignite partnerships with community members that had changed course due to the strain of the pandemic, and build towards community-led goals and priorities for park access in Shenandoah.