Vernon and Interior Health have partnered to create a state of change-readiness through meaningful community engagement for planning a healthier built environment.
The City of Vernon’s strong commitment to creating a healthier built environment was marked through a partnership agreement with Interior Health (IH) in 2012. The partnership committed to a joint collaboration on active travel, which then became a strong foundation for engaging with the community.
Learning from the Process
The partners initially worked together on a successful pilot project with civic engineering students at the University of British Columbia Okanagan (UBCO). The students created a transportation demand management plan for the Kelowna General Hospital and Vernon Jubilee Hospital as well as the East Hill neighbourhood Active Transportation Plan.
“This pilot project expanded on the successes of the City’s previous planning, programming and infrastructure upgrades.”— Wendy Majewski, City of Vernon
Wendy Majewski, Transportation Demand Management (TDM) Coordinator with the City of Vernon helped the professor to guide students on the day-to-day research project. IH staff Pam Moore, Healthy Built Environment expert and Tanya Osborne, Community Health Facilitator, provided ongoing support to the students working in East Hill. Support from residents was gained from the ground up through a thoughtful engagement process. “This pilot project expanded on the successes of City’s previous planning, programming, engineering and infrastructure upgrades,” said Majewski. “We were very excited about the opportunity to work in partnership with Interior Health and UBCO.”
Connections Between Partners & Stakeholders
The City used the momentum of the successful projects to apply for a PlanH Healthy Communities Capacity Building (HCCB) grant. Receiving the HCCB grant sparked a public consultation initiative dubbed ‘Vernon Moves’, which included a series of community workshops on active transportation planning. Vernon was in a state of readiness for making progress on tangible policy choices and implementation.
Once consultations started, City staff continued to build partnerships with multiple groups including council advisory committees, school travel committees, seniors’ centres and non-profit organisations. Engagement strategies included inviting people of all ages and backgrounds to attend the discussions planned at different locations and additional incentives such, refreshments, snacks, child-minding and a prize draw.
Majeswki and Amanda Watson, City of Vernon Transportation Manager, were joined by colleagues and IH experts to facilitate the workshops. “These workshops in the consultation process assisted in increasing the awareness of the benefits of active travel and helped the community identify their ‘best routes’ for walking and cycling collaboratively,” explained Majewski.
Residents were invited to contribute their ideas and experiences by marking up maps using markers and sticky notes. They identified priorities for constructing pedestrian and bike infrastructure that would encourage them to walk and cycle. “That hedge needs trimming on 39th and 23rd – you can’t see the kids crossing,” said one participant. “This is how I get to the grocery store,” said another drawing a line down one road and a short-cut down an alley. The dialogue included both health benefits of active travel and residents’ associated concerns.
Participants also discussed how active transportation is part of a bigger strategy for building a healthy community. Osborne and Moore provided evidence on how planning decisions such as zoning, transportation networks and urban design can significantly improve mental and physical health for residents by considering factors such as proximity to amenities and healthy food, as well as neighbourhood safety.
“Interior Health was there to help raise public awareness that this process was not just about sidewalks and bike lanes, but about the health of their community.” — Tanya Osborne, IH
“Interior Health was there to help raise public awareness that this process was not just about sidewalks and bike lanes, but about the health of their community,” explained Osborne. “Increasing active transportation opportunities is one way we can build healthier communities.”
Health Authority and local government staff also presented to Council on the health benefits associated with active transportation, the economic impacts of active transportation and managing the transportation network. “The comments from this workshop were included in the Pedestrian and Bike Master Plan, which is part of the revised Master Transportation Plan and Official Community Plan (OCP),” said Watson.
Innovative Outcomes and Impacts
“Vernon was in a state of readiness, they could think outside the box.”— Pam Moore, IH
The result was an increased understanding and interest in becoming a healthier community. “Vernon was in a state of readiness (to start implementing change), reflected Moore. “They could think outside the box.”
Feedback from the consultation was reviewed and analyzed by City staff informed the City’s construction priorities, preferred solutions and included in official community planning and policy documents. They learned that targeting sidewalks, on-road bike lanes and shared multi-use paths near schools and senior areas were identified as the top two priorities.
Implementation of the engagement results is already underway. Residents of Vernon are now enjoying a new sidewalk on the south side of the city, the first of several Council-approved healthy infrastructure decisions being implemented based on direct input from the community. The best walking and cycling routes identified in the workshops are now featured in the Vernon Community Bike Map to help people plan bike trips around the city using current road network and facilities.
Vernon’s commitment to community engagement is part of a bigger picture of collaboration towards a long-term vision for healthy community building.
History of a Successful Partnership Agreement
For over five years the City of Vernon has worked closely with the Interior Health (IH) on city planning projects. They have worked together on creating internal leadership and engaging the community in understanding for healthy city planning and policy decisions.
A strong foundation was established when the City of Vernon made a commitment to build a healthier built environment early on through a partnership agreement with the Interior Health in 2012. IH Healthy Built Environment Specialist Pam Moore sat on the Transportation Management Advisory Committee and helped steward the partnership. An IH Medical Health Officer presented to Council and Council agreed via resolution to a Partnership Agreement intended for joint collaboration on active travel.
- Take Action Active Transportation
- Citizen Engagement
- Interior Health and Vernon Partnership Agreement
- Draft Masterplan with Residents’ Priorities
- Link to Easthill Vernon Morning Star (Dec. 2012 article)
Healthy Built Environment Specialist, Interior Health
Phone: (250) 980-5077
Community Health Facilitator, Interior Health
Phone: (250) 868-7873
Transportation Demand Management Coordinator, City of Vernon
Phone: (250) 550-7831
Transportation Manager, City of Vernon
Phone: (250) 550.7655