Walkability Assessment of Trails in Decorah Luther College, Psychology of Health and Illness - Dr. Loren Toussaint, professor Research done by: Kathryn Alberts, Morgan Ames, Jared Weyant, and Samantha Young Introduction Trails are important to communities; they provide places to walk and to get exercise. Our group wanted to know the quality of the trails in Winneshiek County, specifically Decorah. Our group traveled to three different trails three different times. We rated these trails on their quality using an assessment and brainstormed ways that the trails could be improved. Objectives Our goal was to discover the positive and negative aspects of three different trails in Decorah. Also, our goal was to determine ways in which to improve the walkability of the trails. Trail Map Procedure Our assessments took place from October-November, 2008. Choosing three random trails from a city map, we traveled to these different locations in Decorah: the River Trail (near Dunning’s Spring), and two different trails near Phelp’s Park – a main trail and an off-shoot. Based on a 15-question assessment, we rated each trail three different times and took the averages. After learning about the poor-quality aspects of each trail, we thought of ways that the trails could be improved. We also contacted the city of Decorah to ask them about prices of new things for the trails, such as benches and trash cans. Materials The materials used were trail assessments that we created based on other assessments we found on the Internet. The same assessment applied to every trail that was observed and assessed. The contents of the assessment included the completeness of the trail, the safety of crossing a street, the trail’s directness, the physical interest and amenities, and the safety of the trail. Under all of these categories, the assessment included a 1 through 5 rating scale with 5 being the best. The assessment then had a second part with eight questions and each was to be answered with the 1 through 5 scale, again 5 being the best. A third and final section of the assessment included two questions that required written answers and were simply used to describe the difficulty of the trail to walk and if any maintenance was being done. Results After the trail assessments were completed, an average overall rating was calculated from the ratings that were assigned to each question. The results are as follows, in descending order: Phelps Park main trail received a 4.23 rating, the Phelps Park off-shoot trail received a 3.62 rating, and the Decorah River Trail received a 2.92 rating. The River Trail was easy to navigate and a person can go one of two ways; however, as seen in the rating system, the trail has room for improvement. One Phelps Park trail we assessed was an off-shoot of the main trail. It was at a higher difficulty level and senior citizens and small children should be advised. The Phelps Park main trail was very easy to navigate and, as seen in its rating, the trail is well maintained and only slight improvement in a couple areas is really needed. One point that could use improvement on all three trails is to have adequate trash cans available. If trash cans were available, the overall scores of each trail would go up a great deal. Another improvement needed is more benches. This would also raise the scores of every trail. Discussion Some of the possible problems with our research were that our survey or methods may have been flawed. First of all, the survey was only done by us as a group of outsiders. Also, we may have missed some important aspects because our survey was limited in what it encompassed. For instance, would there be a difference in the trails that we hadn’t thought of during the spring and summer and not just the fall and winter months? Do our trails need more or less attention than other counties here in northeast Iowa? Did we choose trails that aren’t traveled as often as others? There are also many things we would do to improve the trails. Snow removal during winter months, adding trash cans, adding maps, and adding benches would all benefit the trails greatly. There is also a large amount of debris left over from the flood that should be removed. Pricing and Maintenance The Parks and Recreation Department of Decorah does not provide any maintenance of the trails except when there is cross-country skiing. Most of the maintenance is done by a volunteer group formed by Oneota River Cycles business. The funding for filling the map stations is provided by the hotel motel tax and also somewhat by the Chamber of Commerce. The amount to get a bench would be in the range of $175-700 depending on the quality. For trash bins that are either made from plastic or metal and are placed on the ground, cost between $100-130. Although these prices are somewhat reasonable, the amount it would cost to remove the trees from the bank by the River Trail would be quite expensive. The rough estimate given was about $200 per tree and would also include a cost depending on how long the trail is(one mile for the River Trail). While the city of Decorah is working on the Trout Run Trail project (which is to be a paved trail surrounding the city), there is going to be a lack of production with the other trails in Decorah. References Trails of Winneshiek. 2007. Decorah Trails. http://www.trailsofwinneshiek.org/decorahbike.htm. Simple Steps in Dakota County. How Walkable is Your Community? Retrieved: October 2007 . http://www.co.dakota.mn.us. Gaard, R. Decorah City Council. Department of Recreation and Forestry. Decorah, IA. December 2008. This photo shows the beginning of the River Trail which was a very pleasant trail to walk on. This photo of the River Trail shows some of the debris left over from the flood; this makes the trail much less desirable to walk on. This photo shows the very narrow path of the Phelps Park off-shoot trail. This would be fine for people who are avid walkers but may be dangerous to either children or elderly people.