A Tale of Two Trails: Exploring Different Paths to Success

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health

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Jennifer G. Walker
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Kelly R. Evenson
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William J. Davis
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Philip Bors
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Daniel A. Rodríguez
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Background:

This comparative case study investigates 2 successful community trail initiatives, using the Active Living By Design (ALBD) Community Action Model as an analytical framework. The model includes 5 strategies: preparation, promotion, programs, policy, and physical projects.

Methods:

Key stakeholders at 2 sites participated in in-depth interviews (N = 14). Data were analyzed for content using Atlas Ti and grouped according to the 5 strategies.

Results:

Preparation: Securing trail resources was challenging, but shared responsibilities facilitated trail development. Promotions: The initiatives demonstrated minimal physical activity encouragement strategies. Programs: Community stakeholders did not coordinate programmatic opportunities for routine physical activity. Policy: Trails’ inclusion in regional greenway master plans contributed to trail funding and development. Policies that were formally institutionalized and enforced led to more consistent trail construction and safer conditions for users. Physical Projects: Consistent standards for wayfinding signage and design safety features enhanced trail usability and safety.

Conclusions:

Communities with different levels of government support contributed unique lessons to inform best practices of trail initiatives. This study revealed a disparity between trail development and use-encouragement strategies, which may limit trails’ impact on physical activity. The ALBD Community Action Model provided a viable framework to structure cross-disciplinary community trail initiatives.

Walker and Bors are with Active Living by Design, NC Institute for Public Health, Chapel Hill, NC. Evenson is with the Dept of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC. Davis is with the Dept of Civil and Environmental Engineering, The Citadel, Charleston, SC. Rodríguez is with the Dept of City and Regional Planning, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC.

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