Kirkland Lake and Area Come Together to Promote Active Living
In recent years, the Town of Kirkland Lake has supported many infrastructure projects that encourage healthy, active living throughout the community, such as:
- paving of the shoulders of Highway 66, an arterial road, to improve road safety and support active transportation;
- development around a local pond to support active transportation and physical activity with a paved trail, exercise stations, playground, and open green space;
- building of a splash park;
- construction of a new community pool to replace the existing one; and
- redevelopment of an unusable space into a multi-usage hub for physical activity.
As reflected in Kirkland Lake’s 2015 Official Plan, the municipality has continued to support the community by increasing active transportation and recreation opportunities for all community members, with a focus on access to facilities. It was felt that what the community needed next were efforts to make “active living the easy choice for everyone”.
Engaging Input from the Community
With this in mind, the Timiskaming Health Unit decided to hold a forum that would bring community members together to identify their needs, perspectives and ideas related to physical activity and active living opportunities in the community and develop action plans to encourage people to be active. Health promoter Crystal Gorman contacted HC Link for support in planning and facilitating the event. After browsing HC Link’s roster of consultants and submitting a request for support, they were contacted by someone with skills they were looking for and – a bonus – had worked with them before and knew their community! HC Link’s Lisa Tolentino worked with Crystal and a health unit colleague, Valerie Haboucha, to plan and execute the event with input from the municipality’s Director of Community Services.
Community partners involved in physical activity initiatives as well as citizens from the Kirkland Lake area were invited with the hope that they would remain engaged in further actions leading out of the event. In addition to electronic invitations, they took a grassroots approach in their outreach strategies to recruit participants for the community forum; this included face-to-face visits and meetings, presence at community events as well as personal invitations to community stakeholders. In all these efforts, they carefully positioned the issue and event to align with the mandates of those they were speaking to and pointed out the roles they could play.
A Community Forum for Active Living
Twenty-two people from Kirkland Lake and surrounding area participated in the community forum held in November of 2015. This included community members of various ages (especially older adults), recreation staff, representatives from health and social service organizations, local First Nations representatives, the project manager for the Healthy Kids Community Challenge of nearby Temiskaming Shores, health unit staff, and even the mayor.
The goals of the day were to:
- Provide a day of networking and discussion for community stakeholders about physical activity and active living in Kirkland Lake and area;
- Raise awareness of the assets, resources, partners and opportunities that exist;
- Identify physical activity priorities and active living action plans to move forward on so as to make active living the easy choice for all; and
- Share the results of the day with stakeholders to help inform decisions and potential ongoing actions.
HC Link consultant Lisa Tolentino facilitated the event using Open Space, an approach which promotes open sharing and solution-based problem solving. Kristin Berfelz from the Physical Activity Resource Centre (PARC) also attended to support the event, gather insights into local community needs and lead active breaks.
To open the day, a graphic tool was used to facilitate a group discussion about the assets that the community currently has (e.g. infrastructure, services, etc.), and the ones they would like to have. Looking at where the community is and what they have was a great jumping off point to exploring where they want to go.
Participants were then posed the forum’s main question: Given the current situation regarding Active Living in Kirkland Lake and area, what are the key goals, actions and strategies we want to move forward on?
Through a brainstorming “marketplace”, participants identified the topics of greatest interest in the community related to physical activity and then broke into small groups to discuss the top three priorities:
1. Barriers to physical activity opportunities
2. Engaging the community (including those who aren’t currently active)
3. Promoting what’s already available in Kirkland Lake
Each group discussed their topic, what the issues and causes were, how to measure them, what options were available to address them, and who the potential partners could be. After this information was gathered, a high level action plan was created to determine what can be done within the next 3-6 months to move forward on the solution(s).
Planning for Action
Participants at the event recommended steps to progress each of the top three priority topics.
1. Barriers to physical activity opportunities could be addressed by activities such as:
- developing and maintaining walking paths,
- supporting access to activities (i.e. transportation), and
- creating a one-stop communication board.
2. Engaging the community (including those who aren’t currently active) could be done through efforts like:
- communicating the benefits of physical activity,
- connecting with employers and engaging workplaces to promote physical activity opportunities,
- making physical activity more visible in the community, and
- using social media and other online technology to mobilize the community.
3. Promoting what’s already available in Kirkland Lake can be accomplished by things like:
- community information boards,
- open houses,
- reaching people through their workplaces, and
- creating a committee to work on promotion.
The Timiskaming Health Unit is committed to bringing participants and other interested stakeholders together to network and work on the next steps to promote active living in the community of Kirkland Lake.
Key Successes & Lessons Learned
Relationships were developed for future partnerships and outside-of-the-box solutions were brainstormed by community members.
Ten participants completed personal action plans and expressed interest in remaining involved in ongoing planning.
In order to get more attendance from the general public, they recognized the need to hold events outside of regular work hours.
By bringing together individuals from a variety of backgrounds (i.e. community members, decision makers, and representatives from services representing various populations), the event afforded an opportunity for each to have their voices heard and to contribute to a cross-sectorial conversation that represented much of the community in some capacity.
The event provided the opportunity for community members to meet representatives of local First Nations and to express interest in enhancing cross-cultural relationships.
The event provided a venue for areas of concern to be highlighted by community members who may not have had an opportunity to discuss otherwise (e.g. seniors’ concerns about walking downtown).
From HC Link’s Blog: Coming Together for Active Living in Kirkland Lake and Area