Sitka has been awarded a bronze-level designation in the Walk Friendly Communities program – again.
The organization gave Sitka the bronze for the third time in nine years. The first year was 2013, and Sitka remains the only community in Alaska to have earned the bronze designation. Juneau has “honorable mention” status.
The Walk Friendly Communities program is coordinated by the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC) in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. On its website, the PBIC states that Sitka’s bronze level is due to its “consistently high walking mode share and low crash rate, exceptional trail system, and community support for walking initiatives and events.”
The number of recognized communities is surprisingly small. Other cities named on June 21 include Arlington County, Virginia, and New York City, which received platinum-level designations. Four cities were given gold, including Ann Arbor, Michigan, Chicago, Corvallis, Oregon, and Minneapolis. There were four silvers awarded, among them Lawrence, Kansas, and Flagstaff, Arizona. And Sitka was among the 13 bronzes, along with places like Rochester, Minnesota, and Durango, Colorado.
Earning a Walk-Friendly designation was a community wellness project of the Sitka Health Summit in 2008, and again in 2012. Concurrent with that effort, Sitka earned a Bicycle Friendly Community designation, and claimed silvers in that category in 2016 and 2020.
SEARHC health educator Doug Osborne helped coordinate the effort to make Sitka a walk- and bike-friendly town. He said “Some might think that cars have taken over, but the vast majority of human beings who will be in Sitka in 2022 will get around on foot. The visitors from the cruise ships are often walking, the Mount Edgecumbe High School student body, and locals who don’t have a driver’s license because of age, vision, or other factors.”
Charles Bingham wrote the application for Sitka’s three Walk-Friendly applications. Besides the obvious economic benefits, Bingham said, “There also are increased social connections when people walk, because neighbors can chant with each other instead of being barricaded in a steel box on wheels.”
Sitka’s bronze-level Walk Friendly Community status will last through 2027.