Sunny Florida called again! This year, Andy and I attended the 2017 Active Living Research Annual Conference in Clearwater Beach, Florida from February 26th to March 1st, 2017. The theme for this year’s conference was ‘Active Living Across the Lifespan’. Researchers, practitioners, and policy makers from diverse disciplines such as public health, transportation, parks and recreation, and urban planning gathered to present new research findings, discuss emerging topics, and network around innovative ideas and solutions for promoting active living in local communities across the world.
This year, Dr. Kaczynski served on the Executive Program Committee for the conference by leading the parks and recreation component of the committee. It was an onerous but rewarding position being actively engaged in decisions about keynote speakers, shaping the program of oral and poster sessions, and determining what the structure of ALR conference leadership will look like as the researchers and professionals who love this event take a more active role moving forward. Andy also had the opportunity to share the stage with Jim Sallis on the first morning in leading the ALR 101 session for first time attendees.
This year, I attended the conference primarily to learn from emerging researchers and projects and to network with professionals across many fields. Just a few days before I started the trip to Florida, I successfully defended my dissertation titled ‘Exploring Spatial Patterning and the Impact of Obesogenic Built Environments for Youth Obesity’. This trip was special because I was able to make the trip with two colleagues and friends, Morgan Clennin and Rahma Ajja.
My favorite part of the conference was the lunch roundtable discussions. Conference attendees were able to choose a table topic that met their interests and discuss ongoing work, projects, and ideas around that topic. For one lunch roundtable, I attended a session about ‘placemaking’, a process where community residents are engaged in the planning and development of public spaces. The vibrant discussion focused around successful placemaking processes, barriers and challenges, and evaluation of these efforts. The commitment to engaging people in the process of developing safe, attractive public spaces was inspiring. One night of the conference, Andy hosted a ‘parks people happy hour’ where conference attendees that had interest in parks or green space and active living could gather to discuss their work and build relationships and partnerships. It was a fun evening with many old and new friends in attendance.
Next year, ALR 2018 is headed to Banff, Alberta, Canada! It will definitely be a ‘cool’ destination and the BEACH Lab will hopefully be well represented once again.
Until next time…