As the City of Apopka, Florida, began to develop a Vision Plan last year, the city scheduled a series of community planning workshops so residents could identify their desires and needs. Part of the process was to identify where new facilities should be located.
Parents were encouraged to bring their kids and allow them to be a part of planning for the future.
At the community meeting held in September 2015, topics were identified and breakout sessions held to delve deeper into each topic.
One issue was recreation. At the community exercise, a group of skateboarders worked together at its own design table to think about potential locations for a new skateboard/BMX park. A planning project team member explained how site selection must be based upon issues such parcel ownership and size, zoning, surrounding uses, and making sure all residents could conveniently access the park, and the group went to work discussing various options.
Kids participating in community visioning exercise. Photo courtesy Keith and Schnars, P.A.
The skateboarding group made a presentation to the rest of the workshop attendees explaining the results of their analysis, including the preferred location and the park's programming needs.
They closed their presentation by branding their effort — "If dogs can have parks, why can't skaters?" — and advocating the benefits to the community of a skateboard/BMX park.
The kids also learned the importance of follow-up and follow-through, by sharing their desires through the project's dedicated Visioning Apopka website and the city's social media, and attending and providing input public meetings of decision makers. The thoughtful planning and advocacy of the young skateboarders convinced the city to include the park as a high priority in its 2016 budget. Preliminary design plans are under way.
The outcome: A lesson in what planners do and first-hand experience in the importance and benefit of civic engagement.
About the Author
Debbie Love, AICP, is an APA Ambassador and director of planning and public relations/outreach with Keith and Schnars, P.A. in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Top image: Kids advocating for the benefits of a skate park as part of the community planning workshop. Photo courtesy Keith and Schnars, P.A.