Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Using the walkability audit as a policy tool: Spotlight on Unionville, Mo

How walkable or bikeable is your neighborhood? Hear from community advocates in Unionville, Mo., who are conducting a walkability audit with residents to better raise the issues of policy change with local leaders.

Sincere thanks to Chrissy, Ericka and Jeanie for their time and insights!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Photovoice Missouri raises livability issues

What happens when you give dozens of teens and youth cameras and tell them to document their towns and everyday lives? Turns out quite a lot. From improving or constructing sidewalks in small rural towns where youth can safely exercise and play, to increasing access to healthy foods in their communities, many Missouri youth are concerned about improving their built environment.

Our friends at the Healthy Lifestyles Initiative, part of MU Extension, worked with the MU Health Communication Research Center to recruit students and teachers for Photovoice Missouri, a year-long effort aimed at giving young people simple education and advocacy tools to talk about the issues that matter most to them. The pictures students took and shared document their everyday lives, including both the positive health behaviors they saw, and the areas where they thought improvements could be made.

Recently, a group of students were chosen as having photographed the most compelling issues facing their towns and, along with their teachers and families, they were invited to Columbia for an awards ceremony where the winning student was announced. It was a moving ceremony and was featured in the MU Extension podcast.

While the concept of Photovoice has been around for decades, it’s exciting and eye-opening to see what fresh perspectives and ideas people bring forth. Among the photos submitted by the students from Dallas, Dent, Lafayette, Mercer, Ralls, and Shelby counties, as well as the City of St. Louis, many of them related to livability issues: access to sidewalks or bike lanes, crumbling infrastructure, safety issues around getting healthy. Some students are already working with their teachers to educate their community and civic leaders on the importance of healthy and active streets and neighborhoods.

Check out Photovoice Missouri and see what youth around our state have to say and show:

Friday, April 20, 2012

Rural communities get livable: Spotlight on Warsaw, Mo

Missouri Livable Streets was pleased to learn about the great work going on in Warsaw, Missouri. While Warsaw is a community on the lake, many people are unaware of how much of a hidden gem it is for biking, walking and enjoying the outdoors. 

In this short video, learn how a handful of community advocates and leaders have been collaborating to make their town a more livable, vibrant community and tourist destination.

Sincere thanks to Irv, Mac, Melissa and Randy for their time and insights!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Rural Missouri on track to create more livable streets

Creating more vibrant streets and neighborhoods isn't a concern for just urban and suburban towns in Missouri. Located in northern Missouri, Unionville is a small town of approximately 2,000 residents, and local advocates are also concerned about health and wellness of residents. In this new video from Missouri Livable Streets, hear from local residents and their reasons why complete streets policies make sense for them.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Missouri Talks Getting Livable

More Missouri communities are talking about why complete streets or livable streets makes sense for them. Hear from citizens from a mix of communities about why these policies and approaches make sense for them.
Watch video

Friday, January 20, 2012

Better Block St. Joe is coming this May!

If you build it, will they come? That’s a question that community planners and advocates will be asking this May when they host “Better Block St. Joe” on May 4th and 5th.
For those who haven’t heard of Better Block, it is a grassroots project that originally started in Dallas, Tex. Community members who wanted to make their streets more livable, walkable and enjoyable decided to stage a “temporary block experiment.” Organizers who wanted to improve a busy area of their Dallas suburb joined together and staged a brief, real-life street improvement. Temporary bike lanes were created; sidewalks were extended and beautified with temporary café seating and trees in planters; temporary businesses were created in empty buildings.

The goal? To educate local community members on how different their street could be, if they only changed their perspective and just tried something different—even if for a day.
Head north 500 miles and Community Development Planner Matt Buchanan says he first heard about the Better Block project while listening to NPR last summer. “I thought it was an awesome idea,” he explains, “and something we could do to improve things in St. Joe.”
Currently, Mo-Kan, a regional planning commission and economic development district in St. Joseph, Mo., is coordinating the effort with over 100 individuals and organizations on board. “St. Joe has a lot of history,” Buchanan says, “a lot of gorgeous old buildings in town, and so many of them are underutilized. A lot of the businesses moved to the highway on the outside of town, and we’re trying to go into those buildings and clean them up and make them look more inviting to business owners.”
As part of the plan, Mo-Kan will also have a business financing booth at their two-day event this May. Experts who can provide advice on loans and funding will be on hand to answer questions, including St. Joseph Downtown Partnership r staff. Buchanan says that they are currently looking for business applications, and anyone who has ever wanted to try out a business for the weekend, now has a chance, for free. “We have an application online,” he says, “and people can apply to set up a pop-up temporary business. There’s no cost and some of them might make some money, too.”
While economic development is a goal of Better Block St. Joe, Buchanan also says that livable or complete streets elements are critical to the project. “We’re taking out street parking and putting in more pedestrian space and bike infrastructure,” he explains. “We’re going to build some bike racks that can be left there permanently and paint some better pedestrian crossings.”
Why all the work, though? “It’s important to change some perceptions,” he continues, “especially for our downtown. A lot of people think that downtown is dead and no longer relevant. And some people might think it’s unsafe, even though it’s not. [Better Block] is a good [way] to change that perception; to get more people involved. With a project like this, people can take ownership of it. They can come in and swing a hammer themselves. When it’s the community involved, it’s a lot different than having the city do something on its own. It becomes a public event.”
For more information about how you can get involved in Better Block St. Joe, visit Mo-Kan.