Tag Archives: Communities

How to Build a Walkable Community

Creating activity-friendly routes to everyday destinations is an evidence-based strategy used to improve walkability and increase physical activity. Encouraging active transportation – walking or biking daily to daily destinations such as work, school or a park for example, helps residents to get more physical activity. It’s a great way to  improve public health and prevent chronic disease. 

Many South Dakota communities have taken steps to create more walkable neighborhoods and connect places and spaces for all people to walk, roll, or bike to. 

There are many ways to improve infrastructure and the ideas for creating safe places for people to be active are almost endless—but the process is similar. Active transportation advocates usually follow these steps:

  1. Find your leaders and gather partners
    The best teams are made up of people from all areas in the community including: city or county officials, Tribal Council members, planning district and parks and recreation representatives, wellness or physical activity champions, business leaders, public health and healthcare officials, law enforcement, community coalitions, schools, service groups, older adults, people with disabilities, chamber of commerce members, and many others.
  2. Identify community needs
    This is where your active transportation team can have some fun with ideas and identify long and short-term goals for your community. Start by answering questions like:
    • How can we encourage mixed land use and greater land density to shorten distances between homes, workplaces, schools, and recreation so people can walk or bike more easily to them?
    • What would it take to build strong pedestrian and bicycle infrastructures like bike racks, sidewalks, and safe bike paths?
    • How can we create community gathering places and destinations so residents have a place to walk to as part of their daily activities?
    • How can we increase availability and access to green space and parks?
  3. Conduct assessments
    Active transportation in small, rural, and remote communities may look different than in larger areas. Rural communities may also need to create active recreation opportunities even if residents must drive to them. Start with easy, doable tasks to establish overall needs and priorities.

South Dakota Communities Collaborate with SDSU-Landscape Architecture to Create Active Transportation Planning Blueprints

Download these SDSU-LA Community Reports to find out how communities in your area are planning to improve their neighborhoods.

Additional Tools to Help You Get Started

Ready to start creating activity-friendly routes in your community? 

Check out the Active Transportation Checklist for a guide on how to start.

Get involved with the South Dakota State Walking Network.

Take advantage of the Active Transportation Assessment Collaboration grant opportunity that can aid your community with technical assistance in conducting active transportation assessments and providing recommendations for improving your environment!

Walk & Bike to School Day: Join the Movement!

Join thousands of schools and communities around the country that participate in Walk & Bike to School annual activities.

  • Bike to School Day is May 3, 2023
  • Walk to School Day is October 4, 2023 

Walk to School Day and Bike to School Day are part of a movement for year-round safe routes to school.

These events encourage community members to consider:

  • Creating safe, friendly routes for biking and walking
  • Building a sense of community or school spirit
  • Inspiring families to walk and bike to school more often

There are lots of ways to get involved year round. You can start simply by encouraging students to walk or bike to school, then spread the word and build into a larger community-wide initiative. You can also plan and register a local event, see schools walking and biking in your community, and find support materials.

Children deserve safe places to walk and bike—starting with the trip to school. That’s why the National Centers for Safe Routes to School also partners with Vision Zero for Youth to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries. Vision Zero provides additional opportunities for advocates to tap into a broader initiative that city leaders have publicly and officially committed to. Encouraging your city officials to join Vision Zero for Youth can bring more visibility and possibly additional funding, improvements, or actions that benefit Safe Routes to School.

Plan and register a local event, see schools walking and biking in your community, find support materials, and learn more about this movement.

Source: Walk & Bike to School; National Centers for Safe Routes to School; Vision Zero for Youth

South Dakota State Walking Network Supports Walkable Communities

Activity-friendly routes to everyday destinations should be a priority for every community!  

An activity-friendly route means you can safely walk or bike anywhere you need to go—the grocery store, the park, or to work.  Any age, any ability, anyone—because walking is good for your physical and mental health.

South Dakota is becoming more walkable, thanks to many communities and partners across the state making strides to create livable, connected, and enjoyable places to walk, roll and stroll. 

How To Make Your Community More Walkable

Get involved with the South Dakota State Walking Network! In 2018, the Walking Network was created to help connect communities with the resources to design and support more walkable cities and towns. This project is supported by the national organization America Walks and a partnership of state agencies that include:

  • South Dakota Department of Health
  • South Dakota Department of Transportation
  • AARP South Dakota
  • SDSU Extension

Reach out to the State Walking Network for technical assistance, connection to resources, or just to talk through your ideas.  The network is well informed of the steps needed to start the process and can point you in the right direction! Advocacy is always the first step when generating support.  Planning smaller, quick-win projects that can be easily implemented to show what is possible longer-term helps build excitement. 

Questions? Submit a contact us form.

SD State of Walking & Walkability Fact Sheet PDFSouth Dakota State of Walking & Walkability Fact Sheet

The South Dakota Walking Network has been collaborating and aligning efforts to become an informational hub for communities seeking resources on becoming more walkable.

Learn more about a few South Dakota community successes, and other resources to support and advocate for walkability where you live: South Dakota State of Walking & Walkability Fact Sheet [PDF]


Walkability Studies

Led by the South Dakota Department of Health, the South Dakota Walkable Communities Technical Assistance Program was launched in 2012. Since then, over 20 communities have engaged residents and launched advocacy efforts to build more walkable areas. These communities continue to make progress toward short- and long-term goals.  

Programmatic evaluation studies were conducted in 2017 and 2022 to assess progress, gather lessons learned, and identify areas for overall program improvement. 

Data enthusiasts, city planners, and community improvement advocates are encouraged to use these reports to find inspiration and guide efforts in their communities.

Advocacy Tools for Your Community

Below are a few key resources that you can use in your advocacy efforts:

Social Media

Physical Activity Programs

Coalition Network

Funding Opportunities

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Active Transportation Checklist

The Nutrition and Physical Activity Program within the South Dakota Department of Health is pleased to provide the newly revised Active Transportation Checklist

This resource, revised in 2020, will assist community leaders in starting conversations about walkability, improving the built environment, and gives a snapshot of the necessary steps for increasing active transportation with links to many resources.

Utilize this resource in your community to launch discussions about creating access and opportunities for increasing physical activity among residents of all ages and abilities.

Creating activity-friendly routes to everyday destinations is an evidenced-based strategy to improve walkability and physical activity, with the overall public health goal of preventing chronic disease. 

The Checklist is a call to action for SD community leaders and advocates working to create healthy communities and increase physical activity—let’s keep SD moving!

Social Wellness

How to improve social wellness

Social wellness involves having healthy relationships with friends, family, and the community, and having an interest in and concern for the needs of others and humankind.

Following are some questions you can ask yourself and strategies that can help you improve your social wellness. As you think about the questions and strategies, make a list of the things you will do and the things you may need to help achieve wellness in this area.

Questions Related to Community

  • Have you found support groups in your area to connect on important issues?
  • Have you made a date with friends for a movie, dinner, coffee, or other social activities?
  • Are you keeping in touch with family or friends? You can pick up the phone and catch
  • up if they are too far away—even a phone call can lift your spirits.

Strategies Related to Community

  • Ask your doctor, a friend or family member, someone from your congregation, or others in your community about support groups.
  • Look online or in the local paper for groups that share your interests—whether it’s knitting or playing softball.
  • Pick up the phone and connect with others.

Questions Related to New People

  • Are you getting out and meeting people with your same interests? If you like art, try a gallery; if you enjoy history, visit historic sites.
  • Are you open to meeting people from different backgrounds?
  • Have you found a place to volunteer? You never know who you might meet.

Strategies Related to New People

  • Look in the newspaper to find out what is happening in your area that could be an opportunity to make friends.
  • Keep an open mind and exercise your curious inquiry when meeting new people.
  • Ask in your spiritual community or any other community about volunteer opportunities.
  • Join meet-up groups online.

Questions Related to Social Time

  • Do you set aside quality time to spend with family and friends?
  • Are you making time to go to places where you can meet new people, or visiting a new
  • location?

Strategies Related to Social Time

  • Keep track of when you need to catch up with someone or when a friend or family member is due for a visit.
  • Organize a calendar of events that would be good ways to connect, or reconnect, to friends, like a public concert or a class reunion.

Source: Creating A Healthier Life, A Step By Step Guide to Wellness
Substance Abuse & Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) 

Where to Walk & Play

With all the great places to be active in South Dakota, you may have a hard time narrowing down the choices. Fortunately, the SD Department of Health, SDSU Extension, and the SD Game, Fish & Parks teamed up to create a couple of handy lists that show some of the different activities offered in South Dakota State Parks.

  • Group activities: disc golf, volleyball, basketball, soccer, and softball
  • Low impact activities: walking, geo-cacheing, swimming, and lawn games
  • Trail activities: walking, running, hiking, biking, and archery
  • Water activities: swimming, canoeing, kayaking, and paddle boarding
  • Winter activities: snow shoeing, cross-country skiing, and hiking

Download the activities postcards or use the SD Game, Fish & Parks’ State Park Filtering Tool to see what activities are available at your nearest park.

Physical activity has immediate health benefits and the best part is—any activity counts! That’s right, even small amounts of moderate to vigorous physical activity can:

  • Reduce anxiety
  • Improve quality of sleep
  • Help maintain bone density
  • Increase strength
  • Improve flexibility

Walking for just a few minutes a day is the perfect way to start exploring all the great places in our beautiful state parks. So, grab the kids, a friend, load up a pet, and take a walk in one of our great state parks—better yet, find an activity and invite the whole gang!

South Dakota healthcare providers can prescribe exercise through the Park Rx program. When participating providers prescribe exercise, their patients fill the prescription by visiting any South Dakota State Park and receive a free day in the park or a discounted annual pass.

Sources: Health.gov, SD Game, Fish & Parks

Ready to Pedal? It’s Bike Month!

Celebrate National Bike Month this May by biking to work, school, the store, park, pool and anywhere in between. Whether you ride to save money, time, improve your health, preserve the environment, explore your community or just for fun, jump on your bicycle and enjoy the great outdoors!

Check out the top five benefits of cycling according to Harvard Health and the Rules of the Road from the League of American Bicyclists.

5 Benefits of Cycling

  1. It’s easy on the joints. When you sit on a bike, you put your weight on a pair of bones in the pelvis called the ischial tuberosities, unlike walking, when you put your weight on your legs. Making it good for anyone with joint pain or age-related stiffness.
  2. Pushing pedals provides an aerobic workout. That’s great for your heart, brain and blood vessels. Aerobic exercise also triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s feel-good chemicals—which may make you feel young at heart.
  3. Cycling builds muscle. In the power phase of pedaling, you use muscles in the buttocks, thighs and calves. In the recovery phase, you use the hamstrings in the back of the thighs and the muscles in the front of the hips. Cycling works other muscles, too. You use abdominal muscles to balance and stay upright, and you use your arm and shoulder muscles to hold the handlebars and steer.
  4. It helps with everyday activities. Benefits carry over to balance, walking, standing, endurance and stair climbing.
  5. Pedaling builds bone. Resistance activities, such as pushing pedals, pull on the muscles, and then the muscles pull on the bone, which increases bone density.

5 Rules of the Road

  1. Follow the Law.  Obey traffic signals and stop signs. Ride with traffic; use the rightmost lane headed in the direction you are going.
  2. Be Predictable. Make your intentions clear to everyone on the road. Ride in a straight line and don’t swerve between parked cars. Signal turns, and check behind you well before turning or changing lanes.
  3. Be Conspicuous. Ride where people can see you and wear bright clothing. Use a front white light, red rear light and reflectors when visibility is poor.
  4. Think Ahead. Anticipate what drivers, pedestrians, and other people on bikes will do next. Watch for turning vehicles and ride outside the door zone of parked cars. Look out for debris, potholes, and other road hazards. Cross railroad tracks at an angles.
  5. Ride Ready. Check that your tires have air, brakes are working and chain runs smoothly. Wear a helmet.

Walking Toolkit: Improve Your Health, Well-Being & Quality of Life

Did you know that walking is the #1 physical activity of choice for South Dakotans? We walk for fun. We walk for exercise. We walk for transportation, and we walk to connect – with each other and with our environment. This toolkit is for anyone who wants to walk more and inspire others in their community to Get Movin’!

Learn what walkability is, why it matters and how to create more access to walkable areas. Learn the basics of starting a walking program and find lots of resources to help make walking easy and fun for everyone.

We’re challenging all community leaders, health champions, wellness directors, worksite wellness coordinators, healthcare providers and walking enthusiasts to download, read up and… Walk! Walk! Walk!

South Dakota Physical Activity Study 2014

At 53.7%, South Dakotans recently surpassed the National median (50.6%) when it comes to meeting recommended physical activity guidelines for aerobic exercise. However, we still rank lower than many of our surrounding states. Studies have shown that 71% of “inactive” South Dakotans are either overweight or obese, putting them at significant health risk. In November 2014, Healthy South Dakota commissioned a statewide telephone survey, the purpose of which was to provide information about “inactive” South Dakotans and in so doing, discover why it is that they are inactive, what types of physical activity they would be most likely to do repeatedly, and what it would take to persuade/motivate them to do so.

The Surgeon General recently released a Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities, and the South Dakota State Plan for Nutrition and Physical Activity 2015-2020 goals include the adoption of healthy community design principals and access to places and spaces to be physically active. The Physical Activity Phone Survey Highlights offers some insights into what our top priorities should be.

Community Recreational Trails in South Dakota

One of the under used treasures in South Dakota are the many, many miles of trails through out the state, both in parks and in local communities. Many cities and towns in South Dakota have started on the ‘path’ to wellness and healthy lifestyle by adding walking, hiking, and biking trails to encourage exercise. Regular physical activity decreases risks for chronic disease, improves overall quality of life, and enhances well-being.

Through a 2010-2011 grant program, the South Dakota Department of Health funded 57 trailhead markers and signs across the state in 18 communities, to promote local trails and encourage increased physical activity. The following South Dakota communities received trailhead markers and signs.

Community/Organization (# of signs and markers)

Aberdeen (4 signs)
Aberdeen Recreational Trails System

Belle Fourche (3)
Belle Fourche River Walk Trail

Box Elder (3)
Nature Trail Arboretum

Chamberlain (3)
Chamberlain Walking Path, Barger Park to Roam Free Park

Huron (4)
Ravine Lake Park
Memorial Park
Riverside Park
Pepsi Soccer Field

Lyman County (1)
Roland L Dolly Memorial Trail

Madison (3)
Madison Recreation Trail
The Gerry Maloney Nature Area

Miller (2)
Hand County Trails/Lake Louise

Mitchell (6)
Bike Path near cemetery/golf course
Burr/Dry Run Creek
15th Bypass
Cabela’s Lake – east entrance
Duff and Norway
Minnesota and Ash

Mobridge (3)
Lewis and Clark Interpretation Trail

Pierre (4)
Griffin City Park
Steamboat City Park
Farm Island entrance
La Framboise Island Nature Area entrance

Rapid City Lions Organization (3)
Rushmore Lions Nature Park

Rapid City Parks & Recreation Association (3)
Hanson-Larson Memorial Trail

Sisseton (2)
Pedestrian Path

Sturgis (2)
Deadman Trail
Centennial Trail

Vermillion (3)
Dawson Trail
Dakota trail
University Trail

Watertown (3)
Red Loop
Blue Loop
Orange Loop

Whitewood (1)
Historic Oak Park

Yankton (4)
Riverside Park
Chamber of Commerce Trail
Marne Creek West Greenway

More Community Recreational Trails

HealthySD is also pleased to provide the links to the other state and community trails listed below. If you would like a community trail listed here use the contact us page to tell us the trail name and appropriate web link.

Hiking/Biking Trails in SD Parks
Kids in Parks
Brookings McCrory Gardens Arboretum
Sioux Falls

South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Fitness Passport Challenge

The GFP Fitness Passport Challenge encourages people of all ages to get outdoors and visit South Dakota State Parks, the state fish hatcheries and The Outdoor Campuses. To get started you can pick up a passport book at any state park or GFP office or visit the GFP website to request a copy.

Visitors to state parks, recreation areas, fish hatcheries and The Outdoor Campuses can have their passport book stamped in an effort to receive incentives.

State parks offer many opportunities for outdoor activities and education. Families can travel the state and visit Game, Fish and Park areas while participating in healthy activities such as hiking, rock climbing, snowshoeing, birding, swimming, cross-country skiing, hunting or fishing.

Areas to visit include all 61 state parks and recreation areas, three fish hatcheries, The Outdoor Campus East, The Outdoor Campus West and the Family Park in Sioux Falls.

Once a visitor has a set number of stamps, he/she can take the book into any park or GFP office to receive incentives. Prizes will be given for visiting 10, 25, 45 and 65 + areas.

Each area has a stamp that can be found in a lock box, so visitors can stamp their books even when staff is not present. The combination to unlock the box is listed on the page that describes the area. Lock boxes are located near the self registration stations at state park entrances and on welcome signs at non-fee areas.

Prize levels are reached when you have 10, 25, 45 and 65 stamps in your passport book. When you’ve reached one of the levels, take the Passport Prize form and your book to a Game, Fish and Parks office or a state park for verification. Ask a staff member to verify the levels you’ve reached and sign your form.

Source: SD Game, Fish and Parks; Fitness Passport Challenge

Community Health Assessment and Group Evaluation (CHANGE) Tool and Action Guide

Community Health Assessment and Group Evaluation (CHANGE) is a data-collection tool and planning resource for community members who want to make their community a healthier one. This tool walks community team members through the assessment process and helps define and prioritize possible areas of improvement. Having this information as a guide, community team members can create sustainable, community-based improvements that address the root causes of chronic diseases and related risk factors. It can be used annually to assess current policy, systems, and environmental change strategies and offer new priorities for future efforts.

Purpose of the CHANGE Tool

The purpose of the CHANGE Tool is to:

  • Identify community strengths and areas for improvement.
  • Identify and understand the status of community health needs.
  • Define improvement areas to guide the community towards population-based strategies that create a healthier environment (e.g., increased physical activity, improved nutrition, reduced tobacco use and exposure, and chronic disease management).
  • Assist with prioritizing community needs and consider appropriate allocation of available resources.

CHANGE Tool Benefits

  • Allows local stakeholders to work together in a collaborative process to survey their community.
  • Offers suggestions and examples of policy, systems, and environmental change strategies.
  • Provides feedback to communities as they institute local-level change for healthy living.

Learn more and get started with CDC’s Community Health Assessment and Group Evaluation (CHANGE) Tool