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Sioux Falls awarded grant for walk audits


PIERRE, S.D. (KELO-AM) – Burke, Pierre, Rapid City and Sioux Falls will use $5,000 grants from the South Dakota Department of Health to audit just how easy it is for residents to walk and bike in their communities.


“A walk audit is a simple way for a community to assess its sidewalks, crosswalks, street lights, parks or green spaces, and other structures that make walking and biking around town safe, easy and appealing,” said Linda Ahrendt, the department’s administrator of chronic disease prevention and health promotion. “The research shows that people are more active when they live in communities where the built environment makes it easy to walk and bike.”


Ahrendt said a walk audit is a first step for communities interested in implementing healthy design principles to encourage their residents to be more physically active. It involves a cross section of community members, often led by design experts, on actual walks through the community to assess walkability. All four grant communities participated in a 2013 training session and audit in Pierre with Mark Fenton, a nationally recognized active transportation consultant.


Information gathered from walk audits can help policymakers support urban design, land use and transportation policies in their state, community or neighborhood that promote physical activity. It can spark both short and long term policy planning efforts, and position communities for future larger grant opportunities to enhance the built environment.


Ahrendt said the department will provide ongoing technical assistance to the grant communities and others interested in healthy community design strategies.   


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Helping South Dakotans across the lifespan to be physically active, eat healthy and be tobacco free is a key objective of the department’s 2020 initiative.