Walkers to inherit Vancouver streets, for one day

Community-building event will close 4.2-mile loop to vehicles

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

Published:

 
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How to help

Sunday Streets Alive organizers are looking for 200 to 300 volunteers and event vendors.

For more information, visit the Sunday Streets Alive website, or the event’s Facebook page

For one afternoon this summer, Clark County residents are encouraged to park their cars and pull out their walking shoes, bicycles, scooters, skateboards, rollerblades, strollers and stilts.

Those or other alternative modes of transportation will be required for anyone who wants to participate in Clark County's inaugural open street event Aug. 18. In order to open the streets up to walkers, bicyclists, skaters, joggers and dancers, the event closes streets to vehicles.

The goal: to connect neighborhoods, businesses and parks through entertainment and active fun.

"It's an opportunity to get out, play, bike, walk and be physically active in the community," said Tricia Mortell, an event organizer and program manager for Clark County Public Health.

"It's really just a celebration of the community," added Jennifer Campos, organizer and senior planner for the city of Vancouver.

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.

Last August, 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.

From those discussions, Sunday Streets Alive was born.

The event's 4.2-mile car-free route will allow participants to explore downtown Vancouver, Uptown Village, the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site and Officer's Row, taking them past Clark College and the Marshall Center. Participants can join in for part or all of the route, jumping in and leaving whenever, and wherever, they choose.

While the event will close the roads along the route, it will not close streets within the loop nor will it block all access to those interior streets, businesses, churches and homes. Police officers and flaggers will direct traffic at intersections, allowing vehicles to safely cross closed streets.

Along the route will be six stations with a wide range of activities, including obstacle courses, a climbing wall, Zumba, pet shows and disc golf. Vendors will set up along the streets and organizers are encouraging more organic activities as well, such as neighborhood garage sales and lemonade stands.

Participation in the event is free.

The inaugural Sunday Streets Alive event comes with a price tag of about $70,000. That includes startup costs, such as website development, logo creation and event branding, all of which can be reused for future open street events, Campos said. The estimated cost for the event, not including startup costs, is about $53,000, she said.

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, Campos said. Clark County Public Health and the Northwest Health Foundation are also sponsoring the event.

Organizers hope Sunday Streets Alive will become an annual event in Vancouver and would like to see other communities in Clark County launch their own open street events.

"This is more than an event," Mortell said. "We want it to be a movement."

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546; http://twitter.com/col_health; http://facebook.com/reporterharshman; marissa.harshman@columbian.com