Improving the physical and economic health of Wyoming residents and their communities was the common theme during the recent Wyoming Trails Summit, a three-day gathering of state officials, health care providers and others in Casper.

Rapidly rising obesity rates in Wyoming while the economy continues to struggle has become a serious concern for the state’s top decision makers. They anticipate expanding health-care and other costs as federal and state budgets contract.

Despite the complexity of the problem, some simple, low-cost solutions are available.

“Think about what you can do to promote active living,” said Tom Forslund, director of the Wyoming Department of Health. Unfortunately, “communities are not designed for active living; they’re designed for the automobile,” Forslund said.

Forslund was one of several speakers and workshop leaders at the trails summit.

Creating easily accessible pathways and trails, as well as pedestrian-friendly streets can be a low-cost approach to healthy living and, as a result, lower health care costs, according to summit sponsors Wyoming Pathways and Platte River Trails.

“The summit highlighted the many benefits of bicycling and walking, and created important new connections that Wyoming advocates and agency leaders can build on to enhance our communities,” said Tim Young, Executive Director of Wyoming Pathways.

“It was inspiring to bring together folks from across Wyoming to Casper for the Trails Summit to network and share strategies for ways we can continue to promote and access funding to construct trails that will benefit the health, safety and economic vitality of our communities,” said Angela Emery, Executive Director of the Platte River Trails Trust.

Wyoming Pathways is a statewide, nonprofit organization formed in 2012. It is an advocate for pedestrian and bike friendly streets, pathways and trails, all of which bring health and economic benefits to communities throughout the state. It recently launched a new web site:

Platte River Trails is a nonprofit organization, led by Executive Director Angela Emery.  Founded in 1982, the organization continues to develop the river pathway while assisting with the expansion of a network of trails that contribute to Casper’s economic vitality and quality of life.

The theme of the summit was “making the connection” between health and the benefits of physical activity by providing pathways, trails and pedestrian-friendly streets.

Moderate exercise, such as walking or pedaling on a pathway for only 2 ½ hours per week can reduce obesity and the risk of diabetes, help prevent heart attacks and strokes and keep blood pressure and cholesterol at healthy levels, according to State Health Officer Wendy Braund, a speaker at the summit.

Experience and studies have proven that the presence of pathways and trails not only encourages active living and better health, but they stimulate local economies as well.