For the third February in a row, the Piedmont Mobility Alliance came together in Charlottesville to celebrate progress, discuss ways to broaden participation, and lay out some specific work plans for 2023. All previous summits were conducted via Zoom but this year was in person.
Around 50 people assembled to discuss and work through shared issues and ideas related to increasing connectivity and access to the outdoors. The first hour was spent in fellowship over coffee and breakfast, with opportunities for folks to meet one another and to get reacquainted. The summit is always very informal and participatory, and there was noticeable energy and joy that resulted simply from being together.
Celebrating Community Success
After welcoming everyone, facilitators Dr. Selena Cozart and Peter Krebs invited attendees to share accomplishments they initiated or witnessed in 2023. It is important to periodically celebrate wins in the community — both to recognize and reward those who have worked hard and show others that good things are happening which they can support and become involved with (nothing sells like success!). Perhaps most importantly, celebrating our wins helps us push further and aim higher as a group.
Here are some examples of wins that people shared at this year’s summit:
- Last year’s Loop de Ville Festival was more successful than ever before! The Rivanna Trails Foundation has also added monthly trail walks to introduce new people to the trail. The work to upgrade the event also spawned efforts to upgrade the trail, resulting in greatly improved signage and focused maintenance.
- Albemarle County received a $2 million RAISE grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to plan a shared-use path from Charlottesville to the Afton Tunnel via Crozet. This was, in part, an outcome from last year’s summit.
- New sidewalks were added throughout Albemarle’s urban area, including on Avon Street, Rio Road, US29 and other places!
- With leadership from the Fifeville Neighborhood Association and assistance from the Mobility Alliance, the Fifeville Community Trail opened, connecting Tonsler Park to Greenstone on Fifth and creating a low-stress route between FIfth Street and the Cherry Avenue corridor.
- Charlottesville City Schools dramatically increased the number of children walking to school in 2022. The Mobility Alliance helped recruit crossing guards, walk leaders, and provided ideas and assistance with quick infrastructure upgrades that have made the walking routes safer.
These are about a quarter of the wins that were mentioned. See the complete list in the Summit Resource Document.
Facilitated Discussion on Broadening Participation
The Mobility Summit always includes an in-depth discussion about ways to diversify participation in mobility efforts and to broaden public benefit from the work. This year, a panel of local Black leaders whose work has been particularly successful in promoting active lives shared their perspectives.
Dr. Cozart asked each panelist to share their stories, with emphasis on their motivations and their perspectives on how exercise, fresh air and access to outdoor spaces contribute to their larger goals. There was a secondary theme about the importance of working together.
Under Carmelita Wood’s leadership, the Fifeville Neighborhood Association created the Fifeville Community Trail as a safe way for kids and families to get to Tonsler Park and to get around the neighborhood. It has become a beloved space and sanctuary for residents of all ages. The neighborhood association is itself a connector, connecting residents to resources and interesting partnerships with other groups in the neighborhood and throughout the City.
Uhuru Foundation founder Robert Gray spoke about redemption and bringing people back from the brink. He works with people who can be important assets to the community but are usually marginalized due to lack of resources or proper mentorship. He helps them succeed by being a connector and a credible messenger.
Will Jones started Prolyfyck Run Creww as a way to create a welcoming and connective community for Black runners in a pastime that often seems overwhelmingly White. The club’s thrice-weekly route specifically passes through low-income neighborhoods to connect with and to inspire residents. Prolyfyck is a group effort that empowers people through mutual encouragement and a mindset of abundance.
All three panelists described ways that exercise and outdoors provide healing and a space for developing emotional intelligence. These are essential tools for healthy lives and they ought to be available to everyone on a regular basis.
The group also emphasized the importance of community, fellowship and the joy that comes from being together outdoors. It’s not only about participation — the work itself is accomplished by working together with people who bring different strengths and personalities to make something larger.
Recognizing Community Leadership
The Mobility Alliance periodically recognizes local leaders and volunteers who go far beyond normal expectations and make significant contributions to connectivity in the region. The awards themselves are fun, hand-made objects that embody the spirit of volunteerism, collegiality and tactical-doing that they are meant to commemorate.
This time, the Alliance awarded a Golden Machete to Carmelita Wood for her leadership in the creation of the Fifeville Community Trail, which opened this past fall. She has also been an important voice in crafting Charlottesville’s new Comprehensive Plan and she has made countless contributions to the community. [Video of this presentation]
Strategic Doing and Collective Impact
After a break for lunch and more networking, several attendees pitched ideas that can only succeed with collaboration from multiple groups. These are concepts that had already been underway or that were inspired by something they had heard during the Summit’s morning session. Small teams formed for brief work sessions on each and they got to work.
The collective projects included:
- Organizing Bike to Work Day
- Increasing Community Involvement with Bike Fest 2023
- Documenting places where people run, walk and ride for better infrastructure.
- Reopening the tunnel in Charlottesville City Yard
- Friends of Biscuit Run
Two other groups from last year are being continued but were not discussed at the meeting:
- Loop de Ville
- Three Notch’d Trail
The groups were given work plan templates. They spent about an hour building structured work plans. Each group defined the problem they are trying to address and provided goals that can be accomplished in 90 days and one year, plus immediate next steps. The Mobility Alliance’s bimonthly meetings will provide structured opportunities for the groups to receive resources, suggestions and accountability from the larger collective.
Checking back in
The Mobility Summit is a step in an iterative process that bears incremental fruit over time. We will learn more about how the work is going at the next Piedmont Mobility Alliance meeting, which will be held on Friday, April 28th at 2 p.m. via Zoom. [Add to Calendar]
In the meantime if you’d like to assist with one of the work groups please contact the groups directly:
ACTION TEAM 1: Bike to work day
ACTION TEAM 2: Bike Fest 2023 Charlottesville
ACTION TEAM 3: Documenting places where people run, walk and ride
ACTION TEAM 4: Reopen the Tunnel at Charlottesville’s City Yard
ACTION TEAM 5: Friends of Biscuit Run
ACTION TEAM 6: Three Notched Trail
ACTION TEAM 7: Loop de Ville
Thank you to the sponsors, who made the event possible: