Blue Zones Project Walla Walla Valley Wins 2022 Municipal Excellence Award
Association of Washington Cities award recognizes innovative city projects that improve community well-being
Blue Zones Project Walla Walla Valley received the prestigious 2022 Municipal Excellence Award for innovative city projects that significantly improve the quality of life for their communities. The Association of Washington Cities (AWC) competition, which is open each year to any Washington city or town, celebrates and recognizes innovative programs throughout the state.
“These winning projects highlight just a few of the innovative ways Washington’s city leaders are serving their communities—through pandemic recovery assistance, increased housing access, creative collaboration, and public health initiatives—all with an eye toward diversity, equity, and inclusion,” said Deanna Dawson, AWC CEO.
Whether through health care, economic, or social initiatives, the award recognizes health systems that have taken collaborative and innovative strides toward improving community health for all who live there.
Blue Zones Project started working in the cities of Walla Walla & College Place in 2021 during a time when communities were eager for healing after the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The two cities joined forces after a community site visit indicated a need to invest in community well-being. Meeting and survey data helped inform the Blue Zones Project’s strategic implementation plan, which takes a policy, systems, and environmental approach to helping the community thrive by making healthy choices easier. Since the project’s launch, Blue Zones Project Walla Walla Valley has worked with city leaders, neighborhoods, employers, schools, restaurants, grocery stores, and faith-based organizations to optimize the environment for well-being — making it easier for people to move naturally, eat better, develop healthy social circles, and live with purpose.
One particularly exciting initiative was the 4Bikes Project, supported by the city of College Place, Walla Walla University, and Blue Zones Project Walla Walla that connected the existing cycle track on 4th Street and made sidewalk improvements from Davis Street to College Avenue in College Place, WA. Through coordination with Fall Service Days at Walla Walla University, more than 20 volunteer engineering students surveyed, outlined the track, and contributed to a project that was of importance to the community. The completed project provides a “complete street”, enabling cyclists, pedestrians, scooters, and cars to safely get around town more efficiently. The project also made some improvements with the ADA movements for people who have challenges that could use more sidewalk options to use transportation and move through town.
The success and strength of Blue Zones Project Walla Walla Valley is a result of a strategic and committed local team, engaged businesses, and thousands of community volunteers. Blue Zones Project Walla Walla Valley is a community-led, evidence-based public health initiative that is improving health outcomes throughout the valley. The Blue Zones Project also emphasizes health equity, working directly with community partners to engage historically under-resourced neighborhoods. The community is seeing vast enhancements to community pride and social connectedness, traction on policies and programs, and increased awareness of health and well-being.