This award recognizes a community’s commitment to improving access to trails and promoting their use and importance for increasing physical activity.
Step into Cuba is a program to promote healthy physical activity through development of sidewalks, paths, trails, social support, and opportunities for lifestyle change in the Village of Cuba, New Mexico.
The program is guided by a partnership of organizations and individuals – the Step Into Cuba Alliance – and coordinated by the Nacimiento Community Foundation. The vision is to create a “greener,” healthier, and more pedestrian friendly, community with opportunities for extraordinary walking and hiking on surrounding scenic public lands. The Village of Cuba is a small rural community in the northwest part of the state surrounded by beautiful southwest landscapes where colorful sandstone mesas overlook broad desert canyons. It is right next door to the majestic Santa Fe National Forest and the San Pedro Parks Wilderness providing unlimited opportunities for healthy outdoor recreation.
A diverse alliance of partners – including the Nacimiento Community Foundation, Cuba Independent School District, Cuba Regional Economic Development Organization, Nacimiento Heritage Team, NM Department of Health, NM Department of Transportation District 6, Presbyterian Medical Services, Sandoval County, University of New Mexico Prevention Research Center, US Bureau of Land Management, US Forest Service, US National Park Service, Mid Region Council of Governments, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, New Mexico Forestry, Cuba Soil and Water Conservation District, The Cuba News, Village of Cuba & Continental Divide Trail Alliance – is steering Step Into Cuba, a program of trails, walkways and physical activity coordinated by the Nacimiento Community Foundation. Its vision is to create a healthier and more attractive community by developing sidewalks, crosswalks, walkways and trails through green corridors; improving pedestrian safety; connecting to surrounding scenic Federal lands, including a new segment of Continental Divide Trail; and provide social support for walking and hiking.
Alliance efforts are underway to improve city sidewalks, add crosswalks, and connect them to popular locations such as the post office, library, clinic, senior center, community garden, park, senior center, schools and fairgrounds. Regularly scheduled public meetings are held to gather input and ideas from community members. Workshops have been organized to discuss the ideas and develop long-term strategy to maximize the improvements being made. A walkability plan has been developed with pedestrian safety consultants and a park plan developed in conjunction with the University of New Mexico Department of Landscape Architecture. Its centerpiece is a network of fitness trails.
The Nacimiento Community Foundation is in the process of acquiring a land donation to link the Santa Fe Forest with the Village of Cuba by way of a 2/3 mile long trail. It is also engaged with the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management in planning a new Continental Divide Trail segment that will pass close to the Village and permit use of its growing fairgrounds facility as a trailhead. To keep everyone informed, a website has been developed (www.stepintocuba.org) that has a calendar of activities, exercise tips, places to hike, updated accomplishments, and links to their blog, facebook group, and flickr photo page. An online survey allows comments and feedback on the direction of the project.
Using local volunteers and youth groups, the Alliance continues to be successful in developing walking trails and enhancing the city park. A Safe Routes to School project is in early planning stages. The goal is to transform the community for pedestrian life, create hiking trails in the surrounding mountains and mesas (including the CDT), create a popular destination with easy access for visitors, and improve the health of all. Cuba will hopefully become a gateway community and a destination for healthy outdoor recreation. Local businesses will benefit from the increased tourism created by offering such a beautiful and easily accessible area. Step Into Cuba is a great example of a grassroots effort beginning within the community realizing the direct connection between Trails and Health.
For more information:
Watch the Step Into Cuba video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6OBgezawcEQ
2004: Jane Lambert