Building Healthy Communities

Project Title

The Walk to Freedom: A Heritage Walking Trail for Niagara Falls

Grant Amount


Priority Area

Building Healthy Communities

Date Awarded

December 10, 2018


Western NY




According to the most recent Niagara County Community Health Assessment, more than one-third of residents in Niagara County report being physically inactive.

The North End of the county, specifically the Highland Avenue neighborhood in the city of Niagara Falls, sits approximately two miles from Niagara Falls State Park. U.S. Census records reveal that more than 60% of households fall below the poverty level in the Highland Avenue neighborhood. It has been the site for many of NYHealth’s investments in the region through our Building Healthy Communities priority area. Although the Falls and many hiking trails are only a five-minute drive away, there is no public transportation that links the Highland Avenue neighborhood to the outdoor activities and other attractions downtown. In 2018, NYHealth awarded the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area a grant that will encourage residents to be physically active and connect with the history of their city.

Under this grant, the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area developed a walking trail starting from the Highland Avenue neighborhood, going to the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center, and ending at the Niagara River, where a riverside park continues onto the Niagara Gorge trail system. The walking trail project included streetscape improvements to increase walkability; crosswalk installations to increase safety; mural installations to increase visual interest; and guided walks. The project was promoted through social media, local press, and on-the-ground canvassing of the relevant neighborhoods with paper flyers and personal appeals. A map of the trail was also produced. As a result, the local Highland Avenue community is better connected to various Niagara Falls resources, including parks and trails, as well as free transportation to cultural attractions and key food outlets, which are severely lacking in the neighborhood.