CDC & NPS Offer Tool for Assessing Trails’ Health Benefits

by Peter Hawes
June 28, 2016

NPS-CDC PTH_Workbook_Cover4.15Recognizing that well-planned recreational facilities promote physical activity, reduce stress, improve people’s health and provide environmental benefits, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Park Service have created a tool that communities can use to assess the health benefits of trails and parks. The CDC and NPS have produced The Parks, Trails and Health Workbook to help planners, park and trail advocates and professionals, and health practitioners factor public health considerations into the development and improvement of parks and trails. The workbook is intended to facilitate collaborative discussions about the health benefits of trails and parks, and to help communities prepare for formal health impact assessments of trail and park projects.

Improving public health is one of Shoreline Greenway Trail’s core goals. Of all the trips that people make daily in our area, 80% are made by people alone in their cars; only 2% are taken using an active mode of transportation such as walking or biking. As a result, motorized transportation contributes about 24% of the region’s greenhouse gas emissions, and the low level of physical activity is taking a toll on public health. Some one-quarter of New Haven County’s population gets no leisure-time activity at all, and two-thirds of the county’s residents are overweight or obese. Healthcare and other costs of obesity total $147 billion a year in the United States, and low fitness is responsible for 16% to 17% of U.S. deaths.

We can do something about this. SGT is not only building a multi-use trail between New Haven and Madison, we’re working to improve pedestrian and cyclist access and infrastructure throughout the Shoreline, and we’re actively encouraging people to get outdoors and get some exercise. We would welcome collaboration with a public health agency, health system or other entity to assess the potential health impact of the Shoreline Greenway Trail and its complementary activities. Interested parties should contact SGT board member Peter Hawes at phawes@shorelinegreenwaytrail.org.