Contact: Thomas Hottman
Dan Burden, the director of inspiration and innovation with Blue Zones, talks with community members, including city, county and state officials, during a walking and planning tour of downtown Friday morning.
You could say Dan Burden is used to being followed by a crowd.
Burden, the director of innovation and inspiration at Blue Zones Project and a nationally known walkability expert, leads walking tours in cities nationwide to build on strengths and to pinpoint areas needed for improvement. Burden led participants on a walking tour of downtown Klamath Falls Friday morning, both to gain a fresh look at their familiar grounds and to collect information contributing to an implementation plan of the Blue Zones Project in Klamath Falls over the next three years.
"You'll never in your life ever take a walk without seeing brand new things," Burden said, as he led the tour.
About 35 to 40 people attended, some to learn more about Blue Zones Project, others to weigh in on the local area's needs for improvement.
"That's what this walk is all about — how do we look for the principles, the behavior, the things that are working, why they're working, the things that aren't working, why they're not," Burden said. "You'll see some things for the first time in your life, and I'll guarantee that."
Increasing the downtown area's "complexities" by beautifying alleyways and adding more trees were discussed, as well as potential for efforts to slow vehicle traffic downtown, and re-direct traffic back to two-way lanes, or form one lane, one-way traffic.
Project officials see potential to boost livability especially by keeping pedestrian foot traffic moving on Main Street and the downtown corridor as well as by enhancing bike-friendly opportunities.
Though each block was familiar to most participants, Burden and Built Environment Manager Samantha Thomas pointed out areas of strength and opportunities for improvement. Burden commented on a trend called window transparency, which acknowledges that individuals tend to feel safer, both as pedestrians, and as occupants of a building, when both can see through the windows.
"Window transparency is a key feature in urban design," Burden said.
Burden and Thomas also spurred discussion of possible changes the city could make to alleyways.
"Your alleys are one of your prize, hidden gems, waiting to be polished," Thomas said.
Suggestions from walk participants at the conclusion of the walk varied from a need for more art down to a need for more spaces for people to gather.
The walk also gave City Planning Manager Erik Nobel a fresh look at the downtown corridor.
"It's a lot of education on what other towns have done, on what we see walking around," Nobel said.
Blue Zones Project
Blue Zones Project officials will use the information gathered to make a draft of a long term, Built Environment Blueprint to guide the implementation of the Blue Zones Project over the next three years.
A final version of the draft is slated to be complete by January 2016, with approval from the Blue Zones Project Steering Committee.
"We're bringing all these different community leaders together to help input and plan that process," said Jessie DuBose, community program manager. Dubose — a Henley High School and Oregon State University graduate — is part of the local Blue Zones Project team recently announced by project officials. Dubose said working on the project is personal for her.
"I do this because I want my children and future grandchildren to love their hometown, and have the possibility of staying here," DuBose said.
Klamath Falls was selected as a Blue Zones Project community by Cambia Health Foundation in late July, after an assessment confirmed the community's readiness for the designation, according to a previous Herald and News story. Sky Lakes Medical Center is contributing $200,000 per year toward the project, according to Blue Zones Project staff.
Blue Zones Project officials are excited about Klamath Falls' enthusiasm for potential growth and development, and the infrastructure already in place to do so.
"You've got the right 'bones'," Burden told walking tour attendees, referencing buildings and infrastructure already in place. "You're the envy of places that don't.
"Once you have your vision, you now can have hope," he added. "The plan then just gives you the blueprint of moving forward."