Northeast Walk Fest Connects Neighborhoods Plagued by Dangerous Streets

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A while back Streetsblog Denver profiled a pretty stellar organization, Walk2Connect, which helps create a cultural impetus for more walkable neighborhoods in Denver. Walk2Connect plants the seeds for walkable streets by — get this — walking the streets.

The idea is that when residents actively observe their poorly designed walking environment, they realize how unacceptable it is. Walk2Connect then enables those residents to become advocates by helping them navigate the civic bureaucracy to change things on the ground.

One of Walk2Connect’s biggest events is the NE Walk Fest, a block party in northeast Denver meant to unite people around the idea that they have the power to change their shoddy streets. It’s Saturday, at 33rd and Holly in Park Hill, from 12-4 p.m. Themed walkabouts abound, like “urban herbs” and “interracial, inter-religious, and intercultural walking.” One walk has kids recording their experience, which they’ll share with the Denver City Council.

“Our role is to provide a frame and a filter around walkability, and making actual places for people as a way of making communities safer,” said Jonothan Stalls, Walk2Connect’s director.

Denver’s worst neighborhoods for walking are, not coincidentally, some of the city’s poorest. Residents of these neighborhoods depend on transit most and need safe ways to get to and from buses and trains. But streets in Park Hill divide the neighborhood more than they connect them: Think of the treacherous Martin Luther King Boulevard, the soon-to-be-widened Quebec Street, and Smith Road, where an RTD rail station will begin operating next year.

“All these practical destinations are on the other side of these huge highways,” Stalls said. “You just pull up a chair and it’s just people constantly darting across busy streets to get to Walgreens.”

Northeast Denver’s streets are violent not just because they’re designed for motor vehicles instead of people. Shootings and gang-related violence are surging there. The NE Walk Fest aims to shift the neighborhood’s focus from dreading violence to improving streets to make them safer.

“We want to create a very intentional, fun, block party to activate a part of the city that’s got a lot of violence,” Stalls said. “This event is an opportunity to take part in helping the places where community suffers because all people are hearing in the news is that people are getting shot. So we’re planting a lot of seeds, to literally connect residents to each other and give them the tools they need to change things.”

Northeast Transportation Connections and the Stapleton Foundation partnered on the event as well. You can find more information for tomorrow’s event here.