Complete Streets workshop helps Hot Springs, AR improve public health

A bird’s eye view of downtown Hot Springs, AR. Photo by Samuel Grant via Wikipedia Commons.

Thanks to its thermal springs and mountainous setting, Hot Springs, AR, has long been a destination for health, wellness, and recreation. Over the years, however, the city has largely built a street network designed for the needs of automobiles—with little regard for the mobility of pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit riders. Now, local officials in Hot Springs are recognizing that prioritizing car and truck travel to the exclusion of these other users has had a significant impact on the health and well-being of its community—and they’re working to make a change.

On September 17 and 18, 2014, Smart Growth America visited Hot Springs for a two-day workshop on drafting a Complete Streets policy—a package of codes and laws ensuring that streets are designed for community members of all ages and abilities. Provided as part of a free, grant-funded technical assistance program, the workshop helped provide Hot Springs with the tools to write a comprehensive policy and develop a plan to implement it.

The first day of the workshop consisted of an open-to-the-public presentation on the principles of Complete Streets and how they boost livability and health. For a more detailed discussion of policy language and street design, construction, maintenance and funding processes, the workshop’s second day assembled City planners and engineers, elected officials, and the local Bikes and Trails Coordinator, along with representatives from Hot Springs’ fire and rescue department, the health department, and the Arkansas state government. Key community leaders and interested citizens also participated.

To maximize impact, the Smart Growth America workshop was designed to align with the City’s other ongoing efforts to improve public health and livability. In June 2013, the Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention named Hot Springs a Growing Healthy Community for its efforts to implement environmental and policy changes that support healthy living.

Hot Springs was one of 18 communities selected by Smart Growth America in January 2014 to participate in the third year of its free technical assistance program. Stretching from New Hampshire to California, the communities selected represent major cities, suburban centers, and rural towns alike.

The program, made possible through a five-year Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Sustainable Communities, seeks to develop local planning solutions that help communities grow in ways that benefit families and businesses, while protecting the environment and preserving a sense of place. Three other nonprofit organizations—Forterra, Global Green USA and Project for Public Spaces—also received competitively awarded grants under this program to help communities get the kinds of development they want.

Workshop materials:

Smart Growth America’s technical assistance has helped over 50 communities from California to Maine achieve their goals. To see results and recommendations from our past workshops, click here >>


Complete Streets Technical assistance