When the Crosslakers volunteer organization held several town meetings during the summer of 2016, citizens were asked to identify and prioritize ideas to improve the city. One of the top suggestions was to enhance the existing network of trails and to make it easier for citizens and visitors to navigate all parts of town by foot.
When the Minnesota Design Team later identified a list of projects that local citizens might want to embrace, it took notice of those citizen comments and made several suggestions under the category of "connectivity" or finding ways for people to more easily connect to all parts of the city.
In January, the Crosslakers group and the Greater Lakes Association of Realtors (GLAR) applied for a $15,000 grant from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) to hold a workshop event to identify opportunities for improving the current trails system. The NAR approved the grant, the only such grant awarded in the country. GLAR added an additional $1,500 grant.
The grants enable GLAR and the Crosslakers to present a Crosslake Connectivity Walkshop open to the public from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 13, at the Crosslake Lutheran Church. A lunch will be provided. To register, call 218-828-4567 or contact Marissa Skuza at email@example.com.
Participants will go on a "walking audit" of some of the town's trails, then return to discuss ways to improve them. They will learn about walkability principles created by Blue Zones, the organization that will facilitate the Walkshop.
The Blue Zones Project has reached between three and four million people in 42 towns across nine states helping citizens and leaders create customized local programs to improve transportation and connectivity infrastructure. According to Blue Zones, "walkable communities are designed around the human, specifically the human foot, and are reflective of the care, collaboration and forward thinking of citizens and civic leaders to create equitable access to the places we live, go to work, school, shop and play."
Blue Zones will incorporate the citizen input received at the Walkshop to create an action plan that will present several trail design options for city leaders to consider.
Dan Burden, Blue Zones director of innovation and inspiration, and Blue Zones Built Environment Manager Samantha Thomas will lead the Walkshop discussions. Burden has spent more than 35 years helping over 3,700 communities achieve more walkable streets. In 2014, the White House and U.S. Department of Transportation honored him. Time magazine named him one of the six most important civic innovators in the world in 2001.
Thomas has provided technical connectivity assistance to more than 200 communities in America during the past five years.
"The purpose of the Walkshop is to help empower and inspire local residents to design new ways to enhance the ability of people to walk or bike throughout the town," according to Thomas. "It also provides a social engagement where local citizens and community leaders are brought together to discuss the future of their community," she said.
The day before the Walkshop, Burden and Thomas will meet with a group of Realtors, Crosslakers and civic leaders to examine and discuss the existing trail system.
The Crosslakers group encourages everyone to register and attend this free event so that the Blue Zones professionals can get as much local input as possible before making its recommendations.
Anyone who wants to help the Crosslakers on this or any other project, let the group know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.