Wyoming Pathways Proposes New “Active Wyoming” Initiative
Update: TRW Committee Agrees to Draft Bill Supporting Bicycling and Trails!
Wyoming Pathways Executive Director, Tim Young, appeared before the Wyoming Joint Travel, Recreation, Wildlife, and Cultural Resources Committee in Kemmerer on Monday, August 10th, 2015. The Committee is beginning work on a Bicycle Tourism and Recreation Interim Study topic, and invited Wyoming Pathways to testify. The full statement is here.
Young updated the Committee with the growing list of communities around Wyoming actively involved in building and maintaining pathways systems and walkable main streets, as well as the growing list of recreational mountain bike and hiking trail projects underway around the state.
“People and businesses considering moving here, and the “Wyoming Grown” program that aims to bring skilled young people back to work here, will be influenced by the existence and quality of these active transportation and recreation facilities. Communities with walkable downtowns, local pathways and fun nearby trails tend to experience a combination of a public health benefit of an increasingly active population, a more vibrant and resilient economy, and environmental and quality of life benefits. This is often called the triple bottom line: people, prosperity, and planet,” he said.
Wyoming Senator Charles Scott from Casper also testified before the Committee. Scott was the sponsor of SF103, a statewide pathways study bill that was debated last session. He recommended the Committee sponsor similar legislation, “Start with my bill and improve it,” Scott said. “Bicyclists are visiting, spending money in Wyoming communities. The customer wants a pleasant experience,” he said. Scott, who chairs the Labor and Health Committee, also highlighted the “long proven health benefits” of walking and biking.
Wyoming Pathways testimony cites research presented at the recent Wyoming Bike Walk Trails Summit held in Casper, which outlined the economic benefits, enhanced quality of life, and heath benefits, that activities like biking and walking can bring to communities.
Based on the documented needs and benefits, Young proposed the Committee consider an
“Active Wyoming” initiative that could be designed to provide investments in community-identified projects and programs through a competitive grant program focused in three categories – transportation, recreation, and health.
An Active Wyoming program with a $10 million a year investment level would be appropriate to address the identified needs of Wyoming communities, Young stated. Proposed as State of Wyoming funding, it would include a provision to leverage investments with a local match, and to encourage additional public, private, and federal matching funds. The recommendation is to start with a 2-year effort, and evaluate the benefits.
Based on a review of the relative costs of these projects and programs, Wyoming Pathways recommended that a formula be considered where:
- 70% of the grant investment program would be dedicated to active transportation projects (pathways and safe streets, walkable downtowns)
- 20% to active recreation projects (mountain biking and hiking trails), and
- 10% to active living health programs (encouragement, promotion, education).
Thus, using the example of a total Active Wyoming program of $10 million, funding could be divided with $7 million dedicated to active transportation projects, $2 million to active recreation investments, $1 million to active living health programs.
The Committee discussion and public comment were favorable to at least moving forward with more study and to evaluate the active living concept. A Lincoln County Commissioner said, “We need a grant program to make it work. We have a million tourists pass us by in Kemmerer, and we need to change that and provide more pathways and trails to get them to stop and visit and spend money.” He said “we need State help, we can’t do it alone”.
Shelley Simonton, Director of the Wyoming Association of Municipalities (WAM) concurred there is a need, and she said that WAM sees merit in the Wyoming Pathways Active Wyoming proposal. “We serve the 99 towns and cities, and there is a need and lots of interest in pathways and trails,” she said.
After discussion, the Committee approved a motion to direct the legislative staff to draft a bicycle bill based somewhat on the Senate File 103 Bicycle Pathway bill last session. It doesn’t yet include funding, but it will include a review of the active living proposal.
Wyoming Pathways believes that promoting an “active living” initiative is a sensible way to achieve healthier, more economically viable and more prosperous Wyoming communities.
For more information, go to https://www.wyopath.org