On Tuesday, April 9, the Sitka Assembly issued a proclamation supporting the efforts of Walk Sitka to make Sitka a Walk Friendly Community. Later in the meeting, the Assembly directed Mayor Mim McConnell to sign the International Charter for Walking.
Walk Sitka is a group formed after the 2012 Sitka Health Summit with the goal to help Sitka recognize and improve its walking experience. The group is preparing a Walk Friendly Communities award application in the hope Sitka can become the first Alaska community to earn a Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum designation (Juneau earned an honorable mention in 2010, the first year of the program).
The Walk Friendly Communities application requires a variety of information about a community’s walkability, such as planning, education and encouragement, enforcement, engineering, and evaluation. The process allows groups to really evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their community’s walkability, and helps them develop plans to make their cities and towns more walkable. Walk Sitka expects to submit its application for a Walk Friendly Communities award during the next application cycle (May 1-June 15).
The proclamation noted that Sitka has several factors that make it a walk friendly community. Sitka has an extensive trail system. it has a culture of walking (Sitka has four times the national average of people who commute to work by walking), it has a growing number of walking programs (such as Park Prescriptions, the Wednesday Walks In The Park, the SAIL Senior Hiking Club and others), and exciting new projects such as the Sitka Sea Walk that will be built this summer. The proclamation also noted how walking is one of the best ways for people to improve their health, and how walkable communities help improve the economy of their cities and towns.
The International Charter for Walking has been signed by individuals, groups and communities in a multitude of countries around the world. Right now, more than 4,000 signatures are on the charter, with the top five countries being the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Australia and Germany. The charter has a variety of goals that help communities build cultures of walking, such as inclusive mobility, integrated networks, less crime, spaces for people, reducing road danger, spatial planning, supported authorities, and the promotion of walking.