An Onion Creek Plantation case study : encouraging physical activity by improving park access
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The effects of improvements to the built environment on physical activity and obesity levels has been widely analyzed. Nevertheless, there is still a need to prove through software simulations that actual modifications to the built environment may not result in disruptions the natural environment. Improvements to the built environment have the potential to enhance quality of life and promote active lifestyles. This study explores how built environment interventions and park connectivity strategies could contribute to higher rates of physical activity (PA) in Onion Creek Plantation -- a local community located in southeast Austin, Texas -- and analyze the incidence of those interventions on public health and obesity rates in the community. This study proposes to foster physical activity through the construction of a pedestrian low water crossing to improve access to the Onion Creek Greenbelt from the adjacent residential areas. Data for this analysis were obtained from the U.S Census Bureau, City of Austin's GIS data repository, City of Austin Watershed Protection Department and Children's Optimal Health reports. Three software products were used to process the data; ArcGIS 10.1, HEC-RAS 4.1.0 and HY8 -- Culvert Hydraulic Analysis software. Simulations of the behavior of Onion Creek during the 2 year and 100 year flood events allowed to measure the variation in the water surface elevation after adding the LWC. For the 2 year event the variation was 1.15 ft. and 0.46 ft. for the 100 year event. These variations should not create additional significant hazards during flood events in Onion Creek. The Onion Creek Park access project demonstrates the benefits of intersecting community planning with walkability, built environment and environmental health considerations to enhance the overall health of a local community. This study shows the value of simulating changes in the natural environment when new features are built.