Arceo Walk, Small Investment, Big Changes in El Monte

The walk, from the Healthy El Monte website.

As Streetsblog has learned about and written about the 5 PLACE Grant Communities, one thing has become clear. When you’re talking about smaller areas, and not sprawling metropolis’ such as Los Angeles, it’s the little things that make a big difference. In El Monte, they created a Health and Wellness Plan that centers around providing healthier food choices and creating more safe opportunities for people to be outside.

To demonstrate what El Monte’s streets should look like, the city created a two new walking routes starting and ending at the northeast corner of Arceo Park that encircle the park and part of the surrounding community. The longer 1.1 mile route route heads all the way over to Santa Ana Boulevard where stores, pre-schools and even some small medical facilities exist. The shorter three quarter mile route connects the community to the park and only runs to Gage Avenue.

“When the city was applying for the grant, they picked Arceo Walk because it had the elements that make it walkable,” explains Arpine Shakhbandaryan, the PLACE Coordinator for the City of El Monte. “It had a residential component. It had the retail component. It had a health care component. It had a lot of schools. All within a mile of Arceo Walk. It was a great example of a walk project and how it could be replicated.”


View Arceo Walk in a larger map

Even a simple google map shows Shakhbandaryan’s point. The Arceo Walk travels directly past health food stores, middle schools and other retail places along Santa Anita Avenue on the western end of the longer route. Along the eastern route are a senior center, library, swimming pool and community center…to say nothing of Arceo Park itself.

“We’ve done a similar map for Mountain View Park and Lambert Park and you can’t find the diversity of resources within a mile as we could with Arceo,” finishes Shakhbandaryan.

Anecdotally, city staff reports an uptick in the number of people walking around the park, although hard numbers for the walking route don’t exist yet as the walk has only existed for a couple of years. The walk was also a crucial part of the formation of the El Monte Walking Club, the first “chapter” of which met at Arceo Park and walked the 1.1 mile route. Last week, Streetsblog profiled the walking club, but Healthy California took a similar look at the group last October, when the walking club was based completely around the Arceo Walk.

When I first visited El Monte, my mother, son and I walked the longer Arceo Walk route. We did no advance work other than figuring out where it started to see if we would be able to figure out the route just as an El Monte resident who was visiting the walk for the first time would have to.  The budget for physical projects in the PLACE grant was only $20,000.  But in this case, some signs, some pavement markings, and a public relations campaign created a real place in El Monte.

These directional signs showed us the way, and make it easy to follow the route. There were also sidewalk markings advertising Healthy El Monte, but the pictures didn't come out well.

Heading west from Tyler and Mildred, the first phase of the walk is very residential.

On Santa Ana, things changed rapidly. The traffic increased as retail development dotted the side of the roadway. There wasn't a downtown feel at all, but the road crossings did make us feel safe.

Included in the development was a pharmacy, a series of doctor's offices, and this health center.

On Bodger Street, we were back to a residential feel. One complaint with the walk is that some intersections didn't have curb cuts. Most did, but a handful didn't.

Heading north on Tyler, Arceo Park was on one side and the senior center and other government offices was on the other. When we reached the end, I had taken 1,400 steps. Healthy El Monte's goal for residents is 10,000 steps every day.

Streetsblog’s Healthy El Monte coverage will wrap up next week with a review of the Healthy El Monte Plan.

Damien Newton wrote this story while participating in The California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships, a program of USC’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.