Archive for the ‘Recreation Alliance’ Category

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

One of the best ways to improve ones health is to be physically active. Physical activity done on a regular basis has proven to prevent disease and promote health. The US Department of Health and Human Services has recently published a report called the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans that sets out how Americans of all ages need to be physically active and how much physical activity is needed to be healthy.

Consider the following benefits of a physically active lifestyle:

· Reduces the risk of many adverse health outcomes.

· Increases cardiovascular endurance and muscular strength.

· Has positive effects on alertness, mental health and increases self-esteem.

· Reduces anxiety and stress.

· Positively impacts people of all types, sizes, gender and ages.

Suggested activity times:

· children and adolescents should be physically active 60 minutes daily.

· adults should be moderately physically active at least 150 minutes each week.

· For fitness benefits, aerobic activity should be in episodes of at least 10 minutes.

· Some activity is better than none.

· Added health benefits generally occur as amount of activity increases.

Other benefits:

· Physically active students learn better.

· A positive relationship exists between higher fitness scores and higher academic scores.

· Kids are more likely to be physically active if their parents are physically active.

· Physically active people have fewer illnesses

The message is clear……Go Play Kansas….do it for you!!!

Dr. Vicki J. Worrell, Executive Director of the Kansas Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance -

Saturday, May 21st, 2011

The last post (Where are the bike paths? Where are the Parks?) briefly touched on the unprecedented opportunity that represents and one of the general challenges that exists. Today we will jump right into the details, simply because time is of the essence and there are many exciting things occurring right now. These are things that you can be involved in today.


One of the greatest challenges to develop a recreation information clearinghouse is collecting information from all the recreation providers about their resources. Fortunately, one thing was easy to sort out, it needed to be geographic based. That way we could map it, because as we all know – a picture is worth 1,000 words. We knew that the information needed to be geographically rooted.


One of the easiest ways to collect geographic information is digitally, using Geographic Information Systems (GIS). With GIS you can create electronic maps, layer them, and perform all kinds of in depth analysis. It also has a huge plus as a standard communication format, because many government agencies already use it.


Wait, why are we concentrating on government agencies? They came to the top of the list because they provide so many resources and are reasonably similar. Many of them in South Central Kansas are also tied into the Visioneeting Wichita initiative, so they’re easier to contact.


So we know that we are targeting government agencies first (we will approach the private recreation providers soon afterwards), and that are going to use GIS as a standard for communicating the information. However, we still need to nail down how we are going to organize the GIS information, essentially the question became what language and dialect will we use to make sure it can be aggregated.


Fortunately, we are following in the footsteps of one awesome State-wide initiative and we are moving parallel to a national initiative that did and are working out a GIS standard for sharing recreational resources information. The State initiative is the Kansas RecFinder and can be found at the following website The national initiative is a GIS attributes standards committee that is being facilitated by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). The two initiatives have provided us with a wealth of information and hopefully we’ve been able to provide them with the same. I will discuss both of these initiatives in depth in future blog posts. However, we need to jump into the NRPA stuff today because of the ability for you to get involved.


I’ve been working with the NRPA GIS attributes technical committee on and off for at least six months. It’s been an interesting project involving folks from all over the country. The group has developed draft standards for GIS information that they hope can be used by organizations throughout the country. The standards help identify what specific names to assign to resources and what general categories they belong in.


The awesome thing about the NRPA attributes is that the NRPA allow opportunities for the general public to participate by submitting comments. You can find the draft attributes and comment forms on the following website.


For more background information about the NRPA initiative check out the website below.


I would encourage everyone to take a quick look at them, and to complete a comment form. Even if you think they don’t need any edits, I know that it would really help to hear your thoughts. I also need to give a quick shout out to Meredith, who has had a time of keeping us all organized. She’s done a great job of herding cats and hopefully will get a long vacation after this project is completed ha.


Next time we’ll discuss the Kansas RecFinder and the maestro Professor Sid Stevens. 


Saturday, May 14th, 2011

If that’s what you think, you’re not alone. A 2007 survey of Wichita residents found that one of the primary reasons why Wichita residents don’t use the Wichita bike paths / pathways system are because they can’t find them. Yes, there were other reasons why pathways aren’t used (view the Wichita PROS Plan survey). However, for nearly 17 percent of the survey respondents it came down to something relatively inexpensive. It wasn’t that the community didn’t make the huge investment to construct the infrastructure, it came down to information.


This website,, is an awesome tool that will help to ensure that people have access to the information they need. The website is a radical solution and one that requires radical cooperation to make it all work. Within Kansas there are many public and private providers of recreation resources. Our challenge is to collect and standardize that information.


This blog will provide you with information about the adventures involved with this humongous challenge. You’ll find out how we are working with communities all over Kansas to provide you with the information you need to go play! Stay tuned for updates and how you can get involved.

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Summer is officially here, signaling the time to get outside to hike, bike and play. Launched last year as a go-to-guide for everything outdoors in Wichita, the online resource has significantly expanded to include all parks and recreation spaces in the state. Now no matter where you live in Kansas, it has never been easier to find new places to “go play.”

“What started as a local effort to get people outdoors and more active has gone statewide,” said Suzie Ahlstrand, vice president for community advancement at the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce and coordinator for Visioneering Wichita, a community planning process that spearheaded the effort through its Recreation Alliance.

Visitors can go to to find interactive maps and more information about how to locate bike paths, parks with playgrounds and a list of park amenities.  In addition, visitors can read blogs written by local recreation enthusiasts, post comments and sign up to receive more information.

Designed to promote healthy lifestyles among Kansans, makes finding parks and recreation options throughout the state easy, so families, friends, groups and individuals can get outside and “go play.”

“We really have a tremendous number of assets that can be found in our local and state parks and we want them to be discovered,” said Doug Vance, executive director of the Kansas Recreation and Park Association.  “The GoPlayKansas website is a great way to easily locate these resources, and more importantly to get out and engage in some fun and healthy activities.”

The site also includes a list of activities that can be used to get kids outside and active. The activities were developed by Rhonda Holt, elementary physical education teacher for 33 years and a National Elementary Physical Education Teacher of the Year. The plans are endorsed by KAHPERD (Kansas Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance), a leader in promoting and advocating for healthy, active Kansans.

“These plans are designed with specific ages in mind, and with the intention that a healthy lifestyle starts early and can last a lifetime,” said Vicki Worrell, executive director of KAHPERD and president of the American Alliance of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. “This is a tremendous resource for the people of Kansas – and for those visiting the state. We hope everyone finds a way to use it.”

Worrell added that the site also is in line with the newly released National Physical Activity Plan, which encourages all individuals and families to be physically active.

“It is exciting to see Kansas really be on the leading edge with this type of initiative,” she said.
Designed and programmed by Wichita interactive agency Howerton+White, the site uses social media technologies to translate GIS (geographic information systems) data about parks, recreation and open spaces, which reside in databases in cities and counties across the state.
To follow on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook, go to

Friday, October 30th, 2009

Wichita Transit Adds Rider Amenity…. Bike Racks Are Here!

The Wichita Transit Department has added bike racks to all of the Transit buses to accommodate the needs of riders. Each bus is equipped with one bike rack which can hold two bicycles. The bike racks increase transportation options by allowing a bicycle trip to be incorporated with public transportation. There are 48 City buses which travel 18 fixed routes.

“Transit riders have been asking for the bike racks and we are excited to better meet their needs,” Wichita Transit Director Mike Vinson said. “We are now able to connect these two important modes of transportation. We believe the racks will increase ridership and help reduce pollution by encouraging the use of public transportation and bicycles.”

There is no extra charge to riders who use the bike racks. An ARRA Stimulus fund grant of $24,000 paid for the racks. For more information about Transit services, visit or call the information line at 265-7221.

Will this change the way Wichita travels? Will you be more apt to hop on the bus?  Let us know what you think and what you’d like to see next…  bike lanes, anyone?

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Pulling together disparate data from multiple sources and putting a new spin on it is a challenging project. The way such a project starts is the realization that there is a vast sea of information that you know is ‘out there,’ but your vision to it is limited, or you just don’t understand it. You know that you could use this information to inform and notify others, if it was presented in a manner that is easily digested.

When I first looked at the data we had downloaded from Wichita and Sedgwick county, it was obvious that the fundamentals of what we wanted to do with goPLAYkansas were there, but it was in a format that most people would not understand.

Parks were made up of points (latitude and longitude) and there were points within those parks representing amenities. In some cases these amenities were obviously tied to activities like softball and baseball.

Where are the trails?

There is another set of data points that represents all the sidewalks, and trails in Sedgwick county.

This data, of the parks and the trails, is held in a special geo-spatial format. A format that is not compatible with the types of database servers available to web designers on hosting providers. It is a special format that the guys into such things have developed to make things like your car GPS possible. Most of us are all familiar with the most popular type of search perfromed on this data: “What is the shortest distance between two points.”

Since this type of search has become common place, the leading web database, MySQL, now includes geo-spatial functions. Like any good file format, however, there are different versions from different systems. The geo-spatial format for our current version of MySQL may, or may not, be the same version or format that the geo-spatial guys are using today. Just like MS Office documents, one version is not always compatible with another.

Our first hurdle was to convert the data into a format the database system on our hosting provider would understand.

Now that we had the data, what can MySQL do with it? After many hours of frustration and Internet searches with Dogpile we realized that our version of MySQL did not support the most common search, a distance between two points. Another Dogpile search reveals that we are not the only ones beating our heads against this limitation, and bird watchers have the solution. A fancy trigo-geo-something-or-other-function that you can apply to latitude and longitude points, (in plain text, not geo-spatial format) to get a distance between points. Best of all it was designed for MySQL.

With the distance calculation in hand we had a pretty good web site. You could find the closest parks from your starting point. You could find the type of amenities in the park, and with some data massaging, the type of activities the park supported.

But where are the trails?

We had to find a way to associate trail data (that included city sidewalks) to the parks. Thankfully, our version of MySQL supported the Intersect function on geo-spatial data. Intersect told us where all the trail points intersected with all the park points. With that query we were able to generate a new lookup that puts trails in our near the parks. Scripts were written to create those tables, so we know what steps to take as we collect data from the rest of the state.

goPLAYkansas is one of those new breed of websites that uses data and information from around the web to create a new look at the vast sea of information that is ‘out there.’ It makes full use of modern web browsers, especially the Javascript programming language. goPLAYkansas works best with an updated Internet browser that has a fast Javascript engine. If you are still slugging along with Internet Explorer 6 or 7 you may find the website sluggish, especially with parks that have odd shapes and lots of amenities or trails. Upgrading to Internet Explorer 8, or the latest version of Firefox or Safari will ensure that you have a fast Javascript engine and give you the best experience.

Friday, May 29th, 2009

This is the question that we need to answer as a group so that we can effectively track the resources of multiple communities and organizations. Fortunately, we are following in the footsteps of some great initiatives (see last week’s post). One of the most impressive initiatives that also relates to us geographically is the Kansas RecFinder website (


The Kansas RecFinder website was developed by Dr. Sid Stevens from Kansas State University. With funding from the Kansas Sunflower Foundation (also a financial contributor to the website) Dr. Stevens undertook the huge task of surveying organizations throughout Kansas to inventory their resources. Once he had that information, then he organized it into a GIS database and coordinated with the Kansas Data Access and Support Center (DASC).


The Kansas RecFinder was and is a huge leap forward for recreation resources in Kansas. We have been in contact with Dr. Stevens and Ms. Hallberg at the DASC about the Kansas RecFinder and We are very hopeful that we can coordinate the GIS information that underlies each system, to make them compatible. By making them compatible, we can share the information between the systems and build upon the system that Dr. Stevens has created. The GoPlayKansas website will add more interactive functions, allowing participants to utilize the data and develop data in a way that enhances and builds on the data that the website initially publishes.


The NRPA GIS standards, being developed right now, might be one method of coordinating the Kansas Rec Finder and GIS information. There are some challenges to this, In the next post we can start to explore how the GIS data for is currently sorted and some of the challenges with coordinating it with the KansasRecFinder or NRPA standards. 

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

Good news!  Wichita’s city leaders have been listening and  – even better – have heard what citizens want in the way of parks, recreational opportunities, and green space. After input from more than 3,000 area residents, the Wichita City Council adopted last fall a strategic master plan for the city’s Parks, Recreation, and Open Spaces. Called the PROS Plan for short, this dynamic plan will serve as a guide for developing recreational assets throughout the City over the next 15 – 20 years. You can read more about it at

The next challenge will be prioritizing projects described in the plan and then developing support for funding those priorities, whatever they may be. Finding the funding will be tough in the current down economy. However, we know that the economy will eventually pick up and when that happens, we’ll need advocacy from Wichita area residents to support funding in an amount they determine appropriate. This is where you can help.

Over the next weeks and months, be sure to share your thoughts (to anyone who will listen!) about why recreational opportunities are important to you and why they are important to our community. Let folks know what you’d like to see funded first, to what degree, and why. You can use this blog to exchange ideas and find other like-minded friends with similar interests.

Over time, your voices – and priorities- will gain traction and can help guide the City’s investments in its parks, recreational opportunities, and open spaces. I look forward to participating in the conversation with you!

Janet L. Miller

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

The Recreation Alliance – creating a unifying sense of community regional identity – a sense of place that defines what’s there, who’s there and what’s going on. 


The Visioneering process distilled thousands of individual inputs and research told us we have incredible happenings and important assets in our region but we are not aware of what each other are doing or what the amenities are. 


The Recreation Alliance started several years ago with 30 participants representing municipalities and community groups throughout the metro area interested in laying the foundation for the development of a regional, comprehensive recreation plan for the area. 


Our sense of the community’s unmet needs in recreation was how to integrate our rich social, recreational informational and knowledge networks and couple that with higher levels of connectedness.  Built upon the super-infrastructure of Visioneering Wichita, we wanted to leverage new energy and optimism as we engaged and connected with our south-central recreational assets through technology.


Specifically we wanted to find out how to get people out into parks, recreation and open spaces (PROS) – both as a way to increase physical activity but also to become more involved in their physical surroundings and to be come advocates for improved facilities in their community.  Social media technologies provided an answer to translating GIS data, as well as mobilizing people to use their PROS places.


Thus, instead of a static comprehensive recreation plan for south-central Kansas that would reside on a shelf – the dream of implementing a website called GoPlayKansas began to form.  This project will use social media platforms to deliver relevant information on demand to people in Kansas –focusing first on those in Wichita and Sedgwick County.  As a result, there is an opportunity for our communities and citizens to communicate, congregate and collaborate in ways that will benefit individual and community health. 

Visioneering Wichita is the place where we work together on a common vision for our future.