Topic: Biking and Walkable Communities / Nature-Deficit Disorder
Location: Spring House
Attendees and Affilitiations:
Grayson Pritchard, Shen Dao Clinic; Mike Newcomb, Pathways of Hope and Healing; Lewis Driver, Shaklee; Kathy Winters, Virginia Organizing Project; Eric Bendfeldt, VA Cooperative Extension; Mike Ballato, Boy Scouts of America; Cory Partlow, Shenandoah Eye Care; John Eckman, Valley Conservation Council; Holly Cooper, RMH; Melissa Waite, First Step;
Sarah Fleck; Melissa Aleman, JMU; Will Koons; Diana Woodall, A Quiet Place Yoga and Shiatsu; Jeannine Cinco; Leah Rosenwasser, OCY; Kristen Wall; Judith Trumbo, RMH
First Topic: Bike and Walking Safety/Paths
While a number of the participants were cyclists who wished there were better paths and routes in the area, most in the group were not formally involved with some of the existing groups working on these issues. Discussion focused on sharing some of the good work that is already being done to help make streets safer, from Bike to Work Day and Critcal Mass rides to Walk to School days other efforts with youth.
-Recent bike fatality on Port Republic Road brought immediacy to issue
-Group feedback: “No walking/biking paths from my home to school or work”
-Distracted drivers—major players in the game
-Political will and money key
-US 33, Port Republic and Reservoir identified by group as unsafe areas to ride
-Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission www.cspdc.org has created a website for cycling in the area: www.bikethevalley.org
-The City of Harrisonburg has both a Bike Plan and a Pedestrian Plan available for download at: http://www.harrisonburgva.gov/index.php?id=1091 Several maps are available there as well.
-Bike Walk VA—www.bikewalkva.org coalition advocating for bikers in VA
-Safe Kids Coalition— http://uwhr.org/safekids/ distributes 1,000s of helmets to kids
-The Harrisonburg-Rockingham Metropolitan Planning Organization is charged with developing broad regional plans for both the city and county www.hrvampo.org We have reached a level of urbanization such that federal regulations require an urbanized area to create and maintain an ongoing transportation planning process that is comprised of representatives of the local jurisdictions as well as state and federal transportation officials.
-The League of American Bicyclists releases an annual report grading the states and also designates Bike friendly communities. Learn more at www.bikeleague.org
-Cyclists who rode from Harrisonburg to Uruguay are giving a presentation at Our Community Place next Friday (Sept. 4)
One attendant said she heard recently the city widened sidewalks to get riders off the street. This needs verification with City. Are city riders expected to ride on road or sidewalk?
Critical mass ride—organize a city ride to garner awareness or possibly in memoriam of cyclist who died on Port Republic
Courses in bike safety—possible to offer through Shenandoah Valley Bike Coalition?
Second Topic: Nature Deficit Disorder
-No access to wildness/wilderness in urban areas
-Mentality of stranger danger, not letting children outside to play
-Psychological and learning issues over time—we are hardwired to be in nature
-The brain functions differently outdoors than when surrounded by four walls
-Observation: “Children of immigrants play outside a lot; those who have the means to get out may not actually be doing so.”
-Nationwide, 16 percent decrease in participation in Boy Scouts
Harrisonburg’s Comprehensive Plan is – “a vision of what kind of community the City would like to be in the future. It identifies the steps required to move toward that vision by providing information about the city’s current conditions, long-term goals and objectives, and recommended implementation strategies.” Visit http://www.harrisonburgva.gov/index.php?id=1448 to learn more about the current update process and to have input in the plan.
“Last Child in the Woods” Richard Louv is a book which brought the phrase “nature-deficit disorder” widespread attention.
-Children & Nature Network www.childrenandnature.org was created to encourage and support the people and organizations working worldwide to reconnect children with nature. C&NN provides access to the latest news and research in the field and a peer-to-peer network of researchers and individuals, educators and organizations dedicated to children’s health and well-being.
-Girl and Boy Scouts of America is a leading organization already working throughout the region to provide outdoor experiences for local youth.
-It was reported that recently the City schools added 15 minutes to school day to allow more time for exercise and time outside. www.harrisonburg.k12.va.us
-Shenandoah National Park (www.nps.gov/shen/index.htm) is one of the under utilized resources available in our region
-“Wild at Art”—art display, high-risk city schoolchildren’s photography from structured nature outings, @ Hanks’ Smokehouse on Route 33 East in McGayhesville.
-Harrisonburg is designated as a “Tree City” by the Arbor Day Foundation. (www.arborday.org/programs/treeCityUSA/index.cfm)
-Possibility of education outdoors rather than indoors? Beyond the few Standards of Learning that encourage outside investigation, are there ways to allow more time for children to explore and interact with nature in play and unstructured activities?
-What effect does being outside have on the brain? (further learning opportunity)
-The City’s Parks and Recreation folks do a fine job, but when Harrisonburg grows to 100,000 people, will we have the open space and natural areas needed to give everyone easy access to nature?
-Participate in the Comprehensive Plan review and encourage policies that give incentives for conserving open space areas throughout the City.
-Support your local Girl and Boy Scout troops
-Support local 4H extension
-Support local camps (Highland Retreat, etc.)
-Organize further learning around effects outdoors/nature has on the brain
-Wherever possible, “Bring green into town”
Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition, www.svbcoalition.org
John Eckman, Valley Conservation Council, john [at] valleyconservation.org