Fostering the Development and Preservation of Trails and Greenways in the Greater Fox Cities Region!


Importance and Impact of Trails in a Community

In 2011, the Community Foundation for the Fox Cities supported a Leading Indicators for Excellence (LIFE) Study that helped the community to develop a clear understanding of the overall quality of life in the Fox Cities by taking an in-depth look at 10 key indicators.

Fox River Portage with FCG SignOn the topic “LIFE of Recreation & Leisure (pg 12) it reports that:
“Community members and leaders have positive perceptions about recreation and leisure opportunities in the Fox Cities. In both 2005 and 2010, a large majority of community members rated the physical recreation opportunities (sports, exercise programs, parks, outdoor activities) highly in the Fox Cities area. Sixty-seven percent of community members rated the quality of the parks and playgrounds in the Fox Cities good or excellent.

Efforts are underway to attract even more visitors to the area through the proposed Fox Cities Exhibition Center. The future Center would be located in downtown Appleton and has received positive feedback from a feasibility study done by the Fox Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce.

Numerous outdoor leisure opportunities exist in the Fox Cities. Since 2005, the Fox Cities went from having 55 miles of public recreation trails to 90 miles in 2011. Efforts to develop the Fox River Heritage Parkway and work by Fox Cities Greenways, Inc. aims to continue the expansion of quality trails in the Fox Cities.

As of 2010, there were 6,730 acres of parks in the three-county area, representing a 25% increase since 2000. The three counties show varying rates of park acreage per 1,000 residents, mostly due to the large High Cliff State Park in Calumet County.”

In the study, there is a snapshot of key findings (pg 4) under the following topics that relate to health & trails:
A Healthy LIFE – diabetes and obesity was listed as a concern.
LIFE in the Natural Environment – Community members are asking for more connected bike and walking paths

Under the topics Fox Cities Area Strengths (pg 5)
Natural Environment/ Outdoor Recreation – Miles of trails and parks increasing
LIFE Study Opportunities for Improvement (pg 5)Investment in Environment
– Need for greater collaboration and regional planning
– Community perceives the area could do more to protect environment
– Need for trails/pedestrian routes connected to enable commuting
– Experts very concerned about non-point source pollution

Lifestyle and Health – Obesity, smoking, abuse of prescription drugs are growing lifestyle problems; binge drinking down, but still too high Overall health status has declined; incidence of diabetes up

In 2010, 28% of Fox Cities residents were obese (with Body Mass Index of 30 or higher), compared to 23% in 2005. In 2010, 62% of Fox Cities adults were obese or overweight, compared to 64% in Wisconsin and the U.S. (BFRSS).”

Economic Impact to a Community

Many communities and organizations across the country have done extensive studies on the impact of trails and greenways in their community. This page provides links to several of these studies and other websites which have information on how shared-use paths (multi-use trails) are an important ingredient in the transportation system’s multi-modal network. Trails provide pedestrians and bicyclists access to community activity centers such as schools, libraries, town centers, parks, businesses, employment centers and recreational facilities.

Park to Paddle 2011A well planned trail may offer opportunities for several markets: a safe route to school for children, bicycle commuters, neighborhood recreational activities, and competitive runners. Walking and bicycling for daily transportation are important ways to get regular physical activity, but such active travel has decreased dramatically over the past few decades.

Investing transportation funds in sidewalks, traffic-calming devices, greenways, trails and public transit make it easier for people to walk and bike within their own neighborhoods and to other places they need to go. Designing communities that support active travel also creates recreational opportunities, promotes health and can even lower health care costs.


During the decades after World War II, U.S. surface transportation policy was concerned primarily with the road system and the vehicles that travel on it. An enormous increase in motor vehicle ownership and use took place-to the point where, in 2007, more than 3 trillion miles were traveled in motor vehicles. There were positive outcomes associated with this growth: increased mobility and access to jobs, education, health care, and recreation. There were other consequences, too. These include an increase in traffic collisions and associated injury, death, and costs, a substantial reduction in physical activity, and an increase in emissions harmful to public health and the environment. Additionally, a lack of efficient alternatives to automobiles for transportation disproportionately affects vulnerable populations such as the poor, the elderly, people who have disabilities, and youth by limiting access to jobs, health care, social interaction, and healthy foods.

Dense, well-connected neighborhoods where residents can access services, shopping, transit, restaurants and employment centers without the use of a car are often lauded as an important next step in urban and suburban development. These goals have come up in the aftermath of decades of federally-subsidized automobile and highway-centric planning that encouraged development of cheap land on the periphery of metropolitan areas, tore up existing urban streetcar systems, and disconnected urban neighborhoods with highway projects. Given that much of the current urban landscape was created for the automobile, it is no surprise that most people view the car as a necessity.

However, many places are now embracing the idea that auto-dependent cities are not sustainable from an environmental, economic and national-security standpoint. In recent years, planners have grappled with many of the problems left by years of this kind of auto-oriented planning. Auto-dependent cities are damaging quality of life – poor air quality is increasingly impacting public health; traffic jams are siphoning off hours that could be spent with families, exercising, working, or any number of other productive or relaxing activities; disconnected street systems are preventing us from interacting with our neighbors or shopping in local stores.


Health Impact on Residents of a Community

Overweight and obesity rates have risen dramatically in the United States since the 1970s, and during a similar time period, physical activity rates have declined in both children and adults. Being physically active is more than a personal decision; community design and the availability of open spaces and recreation areas strongly influence how active people are. The Guide to Community Preventive Services created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identifies community designs in which residents can walk or bicycle to nearby destinations (often called compact, walkable or traditionally designed communities) as effective ways of promoting physical activity for adults and other studies demonstrate similar findings for youth. People living in walkable neighborhoods get about 35-45 more minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week and are substantially less likely to be overweight or obese, than do people of similar socioeconomic status living in neighborhoods that are not walkable. Living close to parks and other recreation facilities is also consistently related to higher physical activity levels for both adults and youth.

Kids-bikes-at-schoolOne national study found that adolescents with easy access to multiple recreation facilities were both more physically active and less likely to be overweight and obese than were adolescents without access to such facilities. The Institute of Medicine has stated that improving the walkability of neighborhoods and increasing access to recreation facilities are essential strategies for preventing childhood obesity.

Because children spend much of their time at school, the school setting can play a critical role in helping children lead active, healthy lives. Recess, physical education classes, in-class activity breaks, after-school programs, and walking or biking to and from school all have the potential to get kids moving. Children who are more active or more physically fit also tend to do better academically, behave better in class and miss fewer days of school.

A study done by the Partnership in Prevention shows that many of the non-motorized transportation policies they had in their study can have immediate, mid-term, or long-term effects. Installing streetlights, new sidewalks, and bicycle-friendly infrastructure can have positive effects that are felt immediately. Incorporating bicycle boulevards or greenways into comprehensive community plans will likely bring about changes over time. The health effects of these policies will also play out in different time frames.

Trail Studies

American Trails: Resources –

American Trails: Impacts of Trails & Trail Use

The Trust for Public Land:

From Fitness Zones to the Medical Mile: How Urban Park /Systems Can Best Promote Health and Wellness
details more than 75 innovative features and programs-including 14 case studies-that maximize a park’s ability to promote physical activity and improve mental health. The report documents the major factors that stimulate public use of city parks, including: structured programming of sports and exercise; a reduction of automobile traffic within parks to help promote running, walking, cycling and skating; an improvement in signage to assist with wayfinding and to promote safety; the design of parks and trails to serve multiple purposeful functions in people’s day-to-day lives; and an increase in partnerships between park agencies and medical offices.

Forty-nine percent of Americans get less than the minimum recommended amount of physical activity, and fully 36 percent of U.S. adults engage in no leisure-time physical activity at all. It is well established that physical activity helps prevent obesity and related medical problems. And there is mounting evidence that providing places to exercise-parks, primarily-can improve health. The mere presence of a park, however, does not guarantee a healthier population. Thousands of acres of city parks are not, for one reason or another, serving the important purpose of helping people become healthier.

Funded through generous grants from the Ittleson Foundation, PlayCore, Inc., Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the report is intended for use by park professionals and advocates, concerned citizens, government leaders, and health officials. Published 2011.

Portland, OR – Bikeability and the Twenty-Minute Neighborhood: How Infrastructure and Destinations Influence Bicycle Accessibility by Nathan McNeil, Master of Urban and Regional Planning, Portland State University, June 4, 2010

Indiana – Summary Report: Indiana Trails Study; A Study of Trails in 6 Indiana Cities completed by Indiana University

Rails to Trails: Economic Benefits of Trails and Greenways

The Jackson Hole (WY) Trails Project Economic Impact Study

Florida Greenways & Trails System Plan

State parks and their gateway communities: Development and recreation planning issues in Wisconsin

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Fox Cities Greenways, Inc.

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