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NPS and CDC Offer Trail Planning Workbook
Health Ideas and Strategies for Development or Improvement of Green Spaces


The Parks, Trails, and Health Workbook: A Tool for Planners, Parks and Recreational Professionals, and Health Practitioners is a freely accessible PDF (

The National Park Service (NPS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have released a toolkit for planning trails with community health in mind: The Parks, Trails, and Health Workbook: A Tool for Planners, Parks and Recreational Professionals, and Health Practitioners.

"Community health should be a core topic of conversation during every park, trail, and open space planning project," said Captain Sara Newman, director of the NPS Office of Public Health.

The workbook provides step-by-step instructions to incorporate public health ideas and strategies in the development or improvement of green spaces.

NPS community planners worked in local communities with a wide range of partners to plan and develop close to home recreational opportunities. The workbook, developed by the NPS Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program, and the CDC's Healthy Community Design Initiative, includes guidance about how to create a community health profile, identify partners, assess potential sites, collect data and evaluate success.

In the planning stages, as landscape architects well know, it is important to determine public access and usability and to ensure that facilities and amenities inspire activity. Geography, visibility, safety and accessibility are all important factors that can determine the success of a trail or park.

"Improving parks and trails can have co-benefits that are not always apparent," said Dee Merriam, community planner for CDC's Healthy Community Design Initiative. "For example, a retention pond can help with storm water management and could also be a park amenity."

The Whatcom County Health Department and the Birch Bay Waterfront Group in Washington state, for instance, used the workbook to examine the health impact of proposed waterfront improvements, which helped the community select changes to the waterfront that would increase physical activity, enhance user safety, increase social interaction and help boost the Birch Bay economy. The data collected and information developed were so useful that Whatcom County's Board of Health has resolved to follow the workbook's framework on all future health and planning projects. Note: Birch Bay is an unincorporated area in the northwest corner of Whatcom County, Wash. It is located 6 miles south of the city of Blaine and the Canadian border on the Georgia Strait.

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May 19, 2019, 8:25 am PDT

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