Public Health Madison and Dane County, Wisconsin, conducted an HIA of proposed updates to the master plan for a 33-acre city park property, currently used as the Nine Springs Golf Course in Fitchburg, Wisconsin. The land lies in an environmental conservation corridor, is surrounded by several large-scale apartment communities, and is located several blocks from an elementary school. The HIA provided additional community input, analysis of secondary data, and a thorough review of existing conditions to help inform the upcoming land-use decision. The HIA explored potential health effects through physical activity, public safety, environmental quality, housing conditions, social cohesion, and community empowerment, as well as area residents’ and other stakeholders’ desired uses for this property and facilitated discussions on its future use and design.
The HIA found the area surrounding the golf course is ranked No. 1 for obesity within the town of Fitchburg census block group. Residents and stakeholders who were surveyed during the HIA process reported inadequate open space for the neighborhood, language and transportation barriers that limit access to physical activity opportunities, and that the golf course offers a unique source of physical activity for the elderly, because of walkable terrain and affordability, and is a significant source of physical activity for regular users. The HIA also found that area residents perceive the golf course to be unwelcoming, a majority of residents do not use it, and land management of the golf course follows good practice standards but water quality and stormwater retention are the biggest environmental concerns for residents and stakeholders.
The HIA made a number of recommendations for implementation of the park master plan, including incorporating a strong community engagement process; creating welcoming entrances to the park and installing features for all ages, races, and abilities; providing free or low-cost community programming, such as a farmers market or movie night; following Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design recommendations to deter criminal behavior; and implementing watershed management recommendations to reduce potential adverse health effects associated with flooding.
The HIA also recommended that if the Nine Springs Golf Course is maintained, it should offer community access to appropriate parts of the golf course after hours and during the offseason; provide free or low-cost opportunities, such as a sliding fee scale or scholarship program; develop play spaces on the perimeter of the golf course; build a partnership between local police and the community; and update the Spanish version of the “No trespassing” signage.
This effort is part of the National Association of County and City Health Officials Health Impact Assessment Mentorship Project. The mentor was Katherine Hebert of Davidson, North Carolina.