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Forterra: Creating Healthy, Vibrant Communities

At the April meeting of Healthy Places Research Group, Forterra Communities Program Manager, Jeff Aken and Communities Policy Director, Alison Van Gorp will lead a presentation about their organization's initiatives and a discussion will follow.
Forterra: Creating Healthy, Vibrant Communities

Image courtesy Forterra

At the April meeting of Healthy Places Research Group, Forterra Communities Program Manager, Jeff Aken and Communities Policy Director, Alison Van Gorp will lead a presentation about their organization's initiatives and a discussion will follow.

March 28, 2012

The Northwest Center for Public Health Practice and the Department of Urban Design and Planning invite you to attend the monthly meeting of the Seattle Healthy Places Research Group (HPRG) on Tuesday, April 10, from 3:30–5:00 p.m. in Health Sciences Center, Room F-348. The HPRG welcomes public health and planning faculty, researchers, students, practitioners, and others interested in exploring the relationship between the built environment and the health of communities.

At the April meeting, Forterra Communities Program Manager, Jeff Aken and Communities Policy Director, Alison Van Gorp will lead a presentation about their organization's initiatives and a discussion will follow. Forterra, formerly known as Cascade Land Conservancy, is the largest conservation and community building organization in the Northwest. It aims to create communities that provide affordable, attractive, prosperous, and healthy places to live, work, and raise families. In this talk, Forterra staff and community partners will discuss the genesis of this important work, provide insight into lessons learned, and discuss upcoming programs and opportunities.

A major focus of Forterra's work has been around creating a built environment that better reflects the needs of people: enhancing options for getting around, expanding opportunities for recreation and interacting with nature, improving access to healthy food, and giving people places to connect with their neighbors. This community emphasis led Forterra to launch The Cascade Agenda seven years ago. The Cascade Agenda has greatly expanded Forterra's work in urban and rural communities, complimenting Forterra's already established role as a conservation and land stewardship organization.

In the past year, Forterra has partnered with communities to support the South Kirkland Park-and-Ride Transit Oriented Development, to successfully pass a Complete Streets ordinance in Edmonds, to build the new Namaste Community Garden with refugee families in Tukwila, and to engage residents to support smart growth in the Central Issaquah Plan.

Going forward, Forterra will continue working towards a vision where people live in walkable neighborhoods that have parks and open space, transportation choices, jobs, and shops. Forterra works to make sure that future growth exists without compromising the natural areas, working farms, or forests that make the region desirable. Forterra will continue to build community capacity through technical assistance and training, empowering residents and advancing systems change via policy advocacy.

Jeff Aken, Communities Program Manager

Jeff Aken works directly with cities on crafting flexible policy solutions, development codes and creative partnerships that allow for well-planned growth. His work has focused on enacting smart growth policies around the region that create livable, walkable communities. In the last two years, he has spent time building public support amongst citizens for growing smarter, by developing tools and trainings to engage residents in the planning process. Aken holds a Master of Urban Planning degree and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, both from the University of Washington.

Alison Van Gorp, Communities Policy Director

Alison Van Gorp directs Forterra's Communities Program, leading efforts to advocate for local, regional, and state policy to support well-planned growth. She advances programs focused on helping cities understand their options and engaging a network of informed citizens advocating for vibrant, livable communities. During Van Gorp''s seven years with Forterra, she has honed an ability to bring together diverse stakeholders to develop policies and planning tools. Van Gorp is a board member of Great City and is on the Quality Growth Alliance's Leadership Committee. She holds a Master of Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Biology and Environmental Studies from the University of Colorado.

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