Prompted by a Crain’s article this week, I blogged for the Friends of the Cal-Sag Trail this morning about how the large employers & their employees along the Cal-Sag Trail corridor need the trail to help slow the rising cost of health insurance and the decline of health and wellness among the workforce. And about the cool-as-heck trail signs the Friends helped pay for. Have a peek!
I just watched an entertaining and poignant video, “5 Extra Years,” that promotes Nike’s research on global inactivity and its resulting stark report, Designed to Move: A Physical Activity Action Agenda. If the embed doesn’t work, use this link.
I’ve heard that inactivity would soon eclipse smoking as the world’s number one cause of premature death. The report’s findings show that in 2012, 5.3 million deaths will be attributed to inactivity, vs. 5 million for smoking. It’s a new world.
The most stark finding, for me, is the potential loss of years of high quality life for this current generation of children. At current levels of inactivity, they risk being the first generation in the history of the developed world to not live as many years as their parents.
I’ve heard this before too. The Friends of the Cal-Sag Trail, a volunteer organization that I’ve long been involved with, produced a video last year that drove home the danger of inactivity to Illinois families and communities, and how a trail could help save them. Watch their video too.
The Friends are hosting their annual fundraiser, Bridges & Blues, on November 3. You can read more about it and get tickets at http://bridgesandblues.org. Their fundraising helps Cal-Sag communities pay for the trail’s construction and the signs and amenities that will integrate its use in families’ every day lives. Check your calendar, and see if you can attend.
The Righteous Path
Six 3-6 minute videos from Trails for Illinois’ presentation at the Central Illinois Bike Summit. To positively impact local economies, our environment, our quality of life, the trails we design, build and maintain must transcend the recreational use category. We must build Righteous Paths.
Trails for Illinois is working hard to teach Illinois the promise of trails’ Triple Bottom Line. It’s a big state, and we could use your help! Please make a donation now to fuel our campaign.
I had the great honor of speaking at the Central Illinois Bike Summit in beautiful Normal, Illinois last Wednesday. I did my best to bring down some truth about the Triple Bottom Line of trails to a full hotel conference room, maybe 150 mayors, planners, engineers, trail & bicycle advocates—including some of my personal heroes in each of those categories. The message was well received—I got some Amens!—and I’m grateful to League of Illinois Bicyclists’ Gina Kenny for sitting in front and filming the whole thing.
Like every new presentation I’ve done, this feels like the trial run for the next one. And Lo!, an invitation has come to pass. An attendee in Normal has invited me to present at the Illinois American Planning Association state conference in Champaign-Urbana this fall. But I have room for more. If the Righteous Path is something you want folks to hear, invite me out.
The Illinois Department of Public Health has been working overtime to get this off the ground: We Choose Health, a $25 million, CDC-funded program to award grants to communities & public agencies ready to build a healthier Illinois.
All of the money is to be spent OUTSIDE the Chicago metro area—left out are Cook County, DuPage County, Kane County, Will County, and Lake County. And 35% of the money available MUST be spent in rural Illinois.
Counties, municipalities, park districts, other public agencies and non-profits can apply for up to $300,000/year for four years. For what kind of programs?
Nutrition, yes. Non-smoking programs, of course. But also: biking and walking programs and facilities, like Safe Routes to Schools, safer streets for walking and biking, and trails.
We believe that trails have a difference-making role to play in reversing an alarming slide downward in quality of life in Illinois. We celebrate that public health is encouraging walking and biking opportunities for all of Illinois!
Public health wants to turn your home into your trailhead!
Let us know if your community or agency is planning to apply for a grant. We’ll celebrate their desire to raise the quality of life in their community! If we can help, let us know: We’ve worked on CDC bike/walk grant programs like this before. Drop us a line.
I’m writing this on a brilliant and sharply chilly weekday morning, my ears still red and burning from the run at my local nature preserve. I ran out the door forgetting my hat, but felt I had to get back to write this letter, so I kept going. I’m rubbing my ears between sentences and wondering if I feel exhilarated or dumb. A little of both.
You and I are building a community here at Trails for Illinois of people who love, use, and want more trails and trail experiences. Cyclists, runners, hikers, bird watchers and skaters, cross-country skiers and walkers. A friend of mine is fond of a phrase, “all things in all ways,” and I think that’s a great way to describe our trail community. It’s also an attitude that can get you out of a rut: my passion is cycling, but I have fallen in love with running my little neighborhood nature trail. I highly recommend that you find a new way to visit your favorite trail this winter, or a trail that you’ve overlooked or dismissed. Why limit the good in life?
At our core at Trails for Illinois, we know this to be true: Illinoisans enjoy the highest quality of life when they can regularly get outside, moving under their own power. This is the best and highest use of the corridors and pathways we will advocate for, improve, and promote. Good health and well-being is the foundation for all of life’s endeavors, and allows us to keep our footing during job crisis, family crisis, financial crisis. When you can say, “At least I have my health,” you’re proclaiming your ability to adapt and bounce back.
Personally, I believe that in our lifetimes, towns and agencies will be as obligated to connect walking and biking facilities to their residents as they are now to connect sewer and clean water. The rising stream of research by our top institutions is emphatically demonstrating that our physiology craves the outdoors, that our mental abilities and emotional balance suffer in fundamental, measurable ways when we stay in and stay still too much. I believe this stream is going to become a flood. Trails for Illinois has a cornerstone role in the public health initiative of our time!
2012 is our year, fellow trail lover. It’s the year we begin to connect Illinoisans to the benefits of integrating outdoor trails and multi-use paths into their lives, their businesses, and their communities. Here’s how:
- Gitter done! We’ll help communities and agencies around the state find the grants, the design know-how and the political will to complete well-designed trails with great connections.
- Team up! We’ll make friends to fight for good trail policy. Illinois is struggling to fund its trail programs, and in Washington, 2012 brings the final battle for trail funding in the next federal transportation bill. We’re already finding allies in trail user groups, cycling advocates, and parks & recreation to bring home trail funding, crucial investments in the well-being of Illinoisans.
- Make it count—literally! With volunteers and electronic counters, we’ll measure use and collect user data along the state’s major trail systems. We’ll be able to put to paper the economic impact and the health impact trails have on Illinois’ communities—a sorely needed tool at a time when every public dollar spent must prove its worth!
- Shout about it! Illinois trail builders and trail user groups need a mechanism to broadcast, celebrate, and share stories. Our website, trailsforillinois.org, will re-launch in January with trail database integration, and our social networks already hum with trail and trail-related feeds. Our newsletter, Trail News, becomes a bi-monthly in January with both print and electronic editions.
- Saddle up! In July 2012, we’ll host our first fundraising event, a 2-day, overnight, car-free bicycle ride on Illinois trails called GITy up! (GIT = Grand Illinois Trail). Illinois already boasts a trail network that in many places can go toe-to-toe with Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan…. We’ll give doubters, beginners and families a small, compelling taste of the trail adventures our state offers, and raise Illinois‘ profile as a trail adventurer’s destination.
Trails for Illinois is still such a little organization to have so big an agenda for the next year. But I admit it energizes me—suddenly we are looking beyond surviving as an organization. We want to THRIVE. Our time in this particular state is a desperate time that asks of EVERY person and organization involved in good works to strike out boldly toward their vision.
I hope you are energized by the challenge, too. Trails for Illinois wants to make every home, and doorstep, and driveway a trailhead. Step boldly forward with us. Make a substantial year-end contribution today toward our work in 2012 (on-line or print this PDF).
And then waste not another minute of this beautiful day and get outside.
Steve Buchtel, Executive Director
I spent three days this week as active living expert Mark Fenton’s assistant, doing presentations and walkabouts in three different Chicago Southland suburbs. I want to leave you with this one of many, many profound takeaways from Mark’s work:
There is no cholera epidemic in America as there is in Haiti because we made policy-level decisions to ensure clean water and effective sewage removal for every home in our communities.
The epidemic facing us—soon to supplant tobacco as our most serious health risk—is inactivity. And just as cholera, dysentery, typhoid, etc. cluster and spread without adequate water and sewer infrastructure, so are the diseases of inactivity—including heart disease and Type II diabetes in CHILDREN, for god’s sake—spreading in Illinois communities without connecting sidewalks and trails.
It’s well past the time to have a different conversation about trails for Illinois.