On May 31, 2020, APA published a statement on righting the wrongs of racial inequality. Part of the statement was to develop and deliver tools, techniques, support, and encouragement to planners tirelessly combating all forms of racism, equal opportunity, and social justice.
The goal of the APA Ambassador Program is to increase awareness and understanding of the power and value that the planning profession brings to communities. Particular emphasis is placed on reaching audiences of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.
Each year, APA Ambassadors are required to complete activities and coordinate with an organization or school to complete two tasks further the idea of planning as a profession to children ages K through 12.
Meagan Booth, an APA Ambassador in Utah, has been exploring ways to continue the focus of the APA Ambassador program in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“If there is anything, the ongoing pandemic requires is it is innovation," says Booth. "Planners are currently striving to acclimate to new ways of thinking as well as focusing on the people and places that make their communities whole, diverse, and unique.
"Planners find themselves in the middle of these challenges especially on the side of public participation, which we all can agree was a struggle to get people out, to begin with. Furthermore, we need ways to participate that keep us safe and encourage all to follow social distancing guidelines.”
Booth is also the founder of Little City Walks, which was launched in 2016. Little City Walks are short community walks that focus on big planning principles. The walks encourage children to discuss what they see, feel, and enjoy about their community and to provide feedback to planners or decision makers to bring about change.
However, scheduling walks in 2020 has been no easy task as most schools are embracing remote learning, strict guidelines placed on visitors, and gathering in groups is discouraged.
“Before the pandemic, Little City Walks was thriving with walks scheduled in Northern and Southern Utah with encouragement and support from the local Utah APA Chapter,” says Booth.
Using current events, she provides an idea for self-guided tours as a method of engagement during this time which was originally posed simply as an idea to meet her ambassador requirements. The idea is to have families and children do self-guided tours that are developed and designed by the APA ambassador in conjunction with their local government or even on their own. APA felt this is an idea that should be shared with other planners.
Open Streets 2017, Downtown Salt Lake City Utah, left, and Ogden's George S. Eccles Dinosaur Park. Photos by Meagan Booth.
The Idea Behind Self-Guided Tours
Self-guided community tours are developed and designed by an APA Ambassador in conjunction with their local government or even on their own. Participants are encouraged to provide feedback to their local government leaders.
Lagoon Trail in Farmington, Utah. Photo by Meagan Booth.
Creating a Self Guided Tour
A self-guided tour is a self-governing tour where one navigates a route oneself as opposed to an escorted tour where a guide directs the route, times, information and places toured. Many tourist attractions provide suggestions, maps, instructions, directions, and items to see or do during self-guided tours.
The focus is on big planning principles:
- Land Use
- Historic Preservation
- Air Quality
- Public Spaces
- Transportation and Connectivity
- Open Space
- Arts and Culture
Neighborhood walk sign in Leyton, Utah, left, and children walking in Hurricane, Utah. Photos by Meagan Booth.
It works, and here's why:
- Walks can be done on each family's schedule, without the pressure of meeting at a certain time and place.
- The walk can be combined with online education. Contribute time and information to the development of students.
- The walk shows appreciation for local architecture, our public spaces amenities, and history.
- Cities can use the activity as a morale booster during this time.
- Cities can highlight their amenities, history, and culture.
- We share our profession with others and be stewards for engagement.
- We can reach out to diverse populations in our communities. It brings the community together in a common cause and also can fosters community discussions
- The tours promote walkability and improve public health.
- The walks can increase the opportunities for children to consider becoming professional planners and present children as active members of their community.
Learn More About APA Ambassadors
APA Ambassadors are APA members who lead volunteer activities with the goal of increasing awareness and understanding of the power and value that the planning profession brings to communities.
Top image: Hurricane, Utah, Children’s Walk at Hurricane Elementary. Photo by Meagan Booth.
About the Author
Meagan Booth is an APA Ambassador and an associate planner for the City of Farmington, Utah.