Wisconsin’s Wintermission to challenge the snowy weather and keep people active

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When you say Wisconsin, you say snow…and you might also think of a high difficulty in staying physically active.

However, Eau Claire, a city in Wisconsin, didn’t allow snowy weather to be a challenge and decided to launch the so-called Wintermission which aims to make physical activity during winter more accessible and to fight social isolation.

This initiative has been created by a Canadian NGO called 880 Cities based in Toronto and it followed the model initially launched in Edmonton, Alberta which looks at how cities should design and use public spaces like sidewalks, parks, and trails to promote healthy activity.

Wintermission has been created as a three-phase project: the first part is about community engagement and includes meetings with local businesses, focus groups, online surveys, and public pop-up events.

After consulting the communities, Wintermission went on to the second stage and decided that the top four priorities to make people stay active regardless of the weather are: snow and ice maintenance, winter mobility, winter events and activities, and winter culture. Through various long-term design and construction guidelines, Wintermission wants to make sure the public spaces are supportive of year-round activities. One of their pilot projects is called Winter Recreation Route.

Jake Wrasse, Government and Community Relations Specialist for the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, told us more about this project:  ‘The Recreation Route is dedicated to providing a useful, safe surface for runners, walkers, and bicyclists to use after each snow storm. We chose a loop because it helps marathon runners choose how far they run without having to stop and turn around to return to their vehicles. The main way we’ve facilitated this is by giving the trail first priority for all city trails, so people know this loop will be the first cleared path. Previously, it was anybody’s guess as to what trails would be cleared and when’.

The next phase of Wintermission Eau Claire will focus on keeping in touch with the residents and local stakeholders in order to understand how they would like to be involved in supporting physical activity in Eau Claire.

If you want to find out more about how the Wintermission project is going on, keep an eye on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/wintermissioneauclaire/

Now, we’re not saying Leeds is anywhere near as snowy as Wisconsin, but Yorkshire winters can be cold, dark, wet and icy enough to make you want to stay snuggled up indoors. At Get Set Leeds we like this idea from a city that celebrates its climate, and doesn’t let the challenge of winter stop people being physically active all year round.  Could Leeds learn from Wisconsin, and enjoy winter?

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