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For Liz McNett Crowl and her project partners, planning evaluation strategies for her active community environments projects is just part of doing business. McNett Crowl is Healthy Communities Project Coordinator at the Skagit Valley Hospital, where she has developed numerous projects to increase the number of active community environments.
“Evaluation is the hardest component of project development,” says McNett Crowl. “But as time has gone on, I have seen the real importance of it, since it helps you to prove that you are successful.” McNett Crowl found that coordinating a Healthy Communities Pilot Project (LINK) was valuable, because the Washington State Department of Health built in assessment and evaluation tools. McNett Crowl has continued to use those tools and others in developing active community environments.
Liz McNett Crowl
Read about public health champion Liz McNett Crowl and her work in both Skagit County and Washington State.
In 2002 McNett Crowl partnered with the Regional Transportation Planning Organization to receive an Active Community Environments Initiatives (ACES) grant, funded by the US Centers for Diseases Control through the Washington State Department of Health. Using their tools, McNett Crowl has assessed all of the major communities in Skagit County. She observed that planners were developing spaces unfriendly for walking and biking, so she formed a “Non-Motorized Advisory Group.” Initially, the planners were not welcoming but gradually accepted the input. The group has operated for 10 years and is now an official committee of the regional planning group.
Assessments helped McNett Crowl improve the safety for cyclists and walkers on county bridges and along busy rural highways. “The fact that we were able to raise money showed them the advantage of working with us,” says McNett Crowl. For a bridge with an unmarked non-motorized lane, partners provided better signage. There was no way for cyclists to cross Highway 20, so Crowl worked with the Department of Transportation to delineate the bike route and provide way-finding signs. McNett Crowl’s team was able to purchase all of the equipment for punch buttons and crossings at a total of five locations. From there the group continued to evolve. They are currently working to create a regional non-motorized plan for all Skagit cities and connections to other counties. “We’ve been building support for moving this forward for some time now,” says McNett Crowl. “It’s the logical next step, it is the right thing to do, we just needed help to connect with the right people and gain support for the idea to be accepted and funded.”
According to McNett Crowl, “If you build new trails, people really will come and use them.” Sometimes a successful evaluation depends on choosing the right partner with the right equipment. McNett Crowl wanted to make sure that a new trail project was successful. She worked with Alex Stone, Community Planner with the National Park Service. Stone was aware of organizations in the US who where piloting use of electronic trail counters, and she provded McNett Crowl with contacts to resources that provided counsel on effective use and placement for them. McNett Crowl now owns 14 trail counters and a volunteer circulates each month to download the data. Using this equipment, Crowl proved that 5,000 people per month were using the new 1-mile section of Kulshan Trail. The data supports enthusiasm for planning and fundraising for more active community environments.
Featured: September 2011
Cities and Towns
Liz McNett Crowl,
Skagit Valley Hospital
Outreach and Development, Healthy Communities, 360-428-2331