Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Expanded Process would add "Listening Sessions"

Prior to FLP issuing its letter on the Master Plan process, the next round of public involvement was going to look something like this:

Comment period closes on the concept maps. Comments are tabulated and analyzed. The City's contractor, Walker Macy, then gets to work consolidating the three concept maps into one "preferred concept." There is another open house where the preferred concept map is presented, then public comment opens again, prior to the map and Master Plan being finalized.

The FLP Steering Committee called for this process to be put on hold, based on the input we got from virtually all members we talked to. People's outrage at what they were seeing in the concept maps, and lack of confidence that the City was listening, caused us to conclude that it would be premature to proceed to the "preferred concept" stage. We called for another round of public involvement that would be more open-ended, that would engage the community in dialog about what we DO want for our park, instead of reacting to yet another map, which we feared would be full of yet another round of things we didn't want. We also worried that some of the community's good ideas that never got included in the concept maps in the first place might slip through the cracks without a chance to be considered.

We have been listened to!

Barely a week after our letter was sent, and a couple of days after FLP's delegation met with Commissioner Fish's staff, the Parks Department has announced a new, expanded public involvement process for the next stage of the plan. It's going to look like this:

Comment forms on the concept maps will be tabulated and analyzed (they're almost done with this), then summarized for the Project Advisory Committee.

The week of October 25, there will be three "Listening Sessions"
October 25: Sustainability
October 26: Active Recreation
October 27: Community Spaces

The preferred concept map will then be presented at an Open House to be held November 1, with a comment period open until November 22.

(Times and places for meetings are still to be determined. Dates may also be subject to change, based on input from Project Advisory Committee.)

So how is this better? Well, before we are faced with another map, we will have a chance to come together as a community and have open-ended conversations about what we want for our park and what changes we might be willing to accept. We will have the chance to hear the ideas of other community members and discuss them among ourselves before we have to respond to them on a form.

These events will be called "Listening Sessions" because the Parks Department, and the Project Advisory Committee for this Master Plan, will be there to listen to what the community has to say.

Topics for the three Listening Sessions will break down as follows:

* "Sustainability" includes community gardens, natural areas/native plantings, and trees.

* "Community Spaces" includes the dog area, paths, internal and external connections (to transit and Lents Town Center), playground/spray play, picnic area, entrance, and performance space/gazebo.

* "Active Recreation" includes Walker Stadium, sports fields, ball fields, tennis, basketball and the "skatespot."

Downside to this expanded process is that there are now more meetings for concerned citizens to attend. But this does not have to be a bad thing. Most of us have one area or activity in the park that interests us most. Make that the session you attend!

The FLP delegation that met with the City is feeling very optimistic that this expanded process will lead to a better result not just for our group, but for the entire community. Yes, we would have preferred the City to do this listening process at the front end, but better late than never.

We would like to know what our members think. Do you feel your concerns are being addressed? Do you feel any greater confidence in the Master Planning process? We would especially like input into the possibility of a meeting between our members and Commissioner Fish himself. Is this something you would like to see happen, or would this just be one more meeting?

So give us your feedback. Come to our next meeting (Thursday, September 30, 6:00 p.m. at the Lents Commons Coffeehouse, SE 92nd and Foster). Post a comment to this blog, e-mail us at lentspark@gmail.com or call 503-331-0326.

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