Takin' it to the Streets Alive

Vancouver event aims to get county residents outside and active

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter



If you go

What: Sunday Streets Alive, 4.2 miles of Vancouver streets will close to motorized traffic in a street fair and exercise route with seven major activity centers. Bikes, scooters, skateboards, in-line skates, strollers, leashed dogs and walkers are welcome. Streets that cross the route will be open, with flaggers to direct traffic, during the event.

Where: Downtown Vancouver, Fort Vancouver, Clark College, Marshall Center, Uptown Village and John Ball Park.

When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 18.

Cost: Free.


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photoSunday Streets Alive

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photoSunday Streets Alive

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Fitness doesn't have to involve weight lifting or an expensive gym membership.

In Clark County, paths to a healthier lifestyle can be found everywhere, including on a circuit around Vancouver at the first Sunday Streets Alive this weekend.

The event will shut down motorized traffic on a 4.2-mile loop with entertainment and exercise hubs at Fort Vancouver, Clark College, Marshall Center, downtown Vancouver, Uptown Village and John Ball Park. Motorists don't need to fret, though -- flaggers will direct cars through streets that cross the route during the festivities.

"We believe this is an activity for all ages, all abilities," said Tricia Mortell, an event organizer and program manager for Clark County Public Health. "There will be food, information and vendors, but the focus is really on health and fitness."

Open street events have been taking place across the country -- and around the world -- for decades.

Unlike street fairs, open street events typically run for a mile or more. The events emphasize opportunities to be physically active and encourage people to get to know their communities through exploration.

Sunday Streets Alive will have a smattering of everything. It's part fitness, part street fair, part carnival and part parade, Mortell said.

"Different activity centers will focus on different things," she said. "John Ball Park will be really geared toward children and families, with things like bike helmet fittings for kids, kid-friendly games, a circus and even a low tight-rope walk. Uptown and downtown, they'll focus a little more on entertainment and activities, music, adult Zumba fitness."

Fort Vancouver will have a station with disc golf and historical activities like sack races; Clark College will have hiking, Zumba and tai chi; and Marshall Center will have Radio Disney and a bike obstacle course for kids.

"Everything is absolutely free," Mortell said.

There's also a flash parade -- open to any and all comers -- being put together by The Arc of Southwest Washington. It will begin forming at Marshall Center at 11 a.m. and probably head out around noon, said Michael Piper, executive director of the agency.

"In our work, the No. 1 thing that people with disabilities want is to be included," Piper said. "One national expert said the only real disability is loneliness. So this is a parade celebrating being human and part of a community."

Dogs on leashes are welcome, but no signs or banners are allowed in the parade, which is designed to celebrate individuals.

"It's not supposed to be political," Piper said.

So far, he's heard that a dance step group, musicians, a couple of floats and some therapy llamas will be part of the parade, Piper added.

"It's kind of gone viral," he said. "We have wheelchairs, strollers, skateboards, stilts, costumes, somebody making a float with mannequins, all sorts of people planning to participate. We're not sure of everything we'll see yet."

People don't have to sign up for the parade, which will run the entire 4.2-mile route, and they can join in and leave whenever they'd like.

The event came about last August, when representatives from Clark County Public Health, Clark County Community Planning, the city of Vancouver and the nonprofit Bike Clark County got together to discuss bringing an open street event to Clark County. The idea stemmed from Clark County's 2010 Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan, which identified an open street event as an action item.

"We wanted to show that being physically active and out in the community is for everyone, regardless of their abilities," Mortell said. "We know that chronic diseases are the No. 1 killers in our community, so as a public health agency that's important to us, but we also want to show that you don't have to join a gym to get fit. There are open spaces for biking and walking everywhere."

The agency also asked food vendors to include at least two healthy items on their menus, which they all agreed to, Mortell said.

"Be sure and come prepared with some water and maybe a few dollars if you want to try some healthy food," she said.

The event cost about $70,000 to put together. That includes startup costs, such as website development, logo creation and branding, all of which can be reused for future open street events. The estimated cost for the event, not including startup costs, is about $53,000.

The city will use money from its special events fund, a $20,000 grant from Kaiser Permanente and two additional grants to cover the cost of the event. Clark County Public Health and the Northwest Health Foundation are also sponsoring the event.

Sue Vorenberg: 360-735-4457; http://twitter.com/col_SueVo; sue.vorenberg@columbian.com.

Columbian staff writer Marissa Harshman contributed to this story.