Communities looking to energize a space, but without room to do, so are turning to existing pathway and trail networks to create active living opportunities for families! There linear spaces provide ample opportunities for walking and running, and by adding a few interesting stops along the way, communities can increase usage, healthy behavior, and community capital.
The guidebook Pathways for Play is designed to help communities identify best locations for, and integrate playful interaction in walkable, bikeable, shared use community pathway networks. The term pathway covers all forms of network infrastructure, including greenways, trails and sidewalks that are used by pedestrians and cyclists to move around urban/suburban neighborhoods and mixed-use developments. Truly meaningful pathways delight users of all ages, and are intergenerational hubs to encourage movement and active living. Here are just a few ways to augment pathways.
Playful pockets - In the age of digital screens, sometimes it's a challenge to get kids, especially younger ones, interested in simply taking a hike. Communities like Chattanooga who have created fun "pockets" of nature themed playful activities are noticing an increase of family participation! It's a fun bonus when the equipment can teach informal lessons about the surrounding flora and fauna.
Playgrounds - Create a destination at the end of the trail by adding a small playground. They don't have to be huge to be effective, and can be designed to harmonize with the natural surroundings. Children will enjoy "discovering" the play area at the end of the trail as much as they appreciate the playful stops along the way.
Shaded gathering areas - Creating shelters along a path where people can gather, relax, reflect, or even share a bite to eat are a popular way to increase trail and pathway usage. Not all people are comfortable standing and walking for extended periods so providing resting places makes a trail more enjoyable for more people.
Musical areas - The gentle sound of music coming from around the next bend is a great way to energize even the most worn out family members as they race to discover what's coming next! A few musical instruments clustered together in a pathway clearing provides a whole new way to interact and has the potential to become the most favored place along the path.
Adult fitness - Creating a well-rounded workout along a pathway can make it a favorite destination for adults wanting to workout. Intersperse equipment designed to work muscles, strengthen the core, promote balance, and enhance flexibility along the path. For parents that may have children along, don't forget to include something for the kids like a swing, rocker, or spinner.
Small water features - Trail users can get hot, especially in summer months! Splash park features don't have to be huge to be effective, even a couple small features that are activated by a bollard or touch sensor can cool families off and have a marked effect on how long people will stay on the trail.
Comfort Stations - Be sure to add amenities to increase the comfort and usage of the space. Water fountains (for people and pets), trash receptacles, bike parking and repair stations, benches, restrooms, mile markers to let people know how far they've traveled and engaging trees and plants contribute greatly to the overall enjoyment of a space. Discover more about plants that provide play value in a variety of climates by visiting our Plant Database. You can browse plants by type, growth habit, zones, or characteristics, then select playful attributes like sound, scent, pollinator and/or songbird attractant, etc. It's a fun way to learn about plants and increase the enjoyment of your path or trail!
There are lots of great ways to increase pathway usage and activate communities. Does your community have a great active path? Would you like to create one? Let's get you started today!