Learning Participatory Planning and Design: An analysis of community design and its influence on the creation of a new neighborhood park
By Dylan McKnight A research report submitted to the faculty of The University of North Carolina at Charlotte Department of Geography in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Master of Arts in Community Planning degree.
Charlotte, North Carolina November 25, 2013
Dr. Janni Sorensen
Dr. Tyrel Moore
Dr. Bill Graves
LEARNING PARTICIPATORY PLANNING AND DESIGN An analysis of community design and its influence on the creation of a new neighborhood park
Dylan McKnight Email: email@example.com
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte Department of Geography
Executive Summary This project has been produced in fulfillment of my masterâ€™s capstone requirements for the Department of Geography at UNC Charlotte. The residents of Reid Park were kind enough to let me work with them in a participatory design and planning process. Designs and plans for a new neighborhood park were the result of those processes that began in June 2013. The idea for this linear park began in the early 1990s in neighborhood planning processes accomplished with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Planning department and residents of Reid Park. Similarly, new connective streets were planned at the same time, some of which were built, many were not. In addition to a new 18 acre central park which connects to a planned greenway, our plan proposes new multi-use paths to connect blocks from east to west in existing CDOT rights of way. Stakeholders from several branches of local government were consulted during this planning process. I met with a core group of residents every two weeks and we presented our progression and consulted a larger group of Reid Park residents at four monthly neighborhood association meetings. Our plan was accepted by the Mecklenburg County Parks and Rec department and, at the time of writing, is in formal planning processes that will lead to construction of the park by the end of 2014. In addition to reviewing the processes and methods that we used to plan and design the park, this paper reviews the history of the neighborhood as it relates to community and municipal planning, the history of community planning, modern techniques used in the field and the benefits of green public open space in communities.
History of Reid Park
Reid Park Associates
Neighborhood Planning in Reid Park in the early 1990s
Issues with Public Open Space in Reid Park
Decline of the Reid Park CDC and the Neighborhood
The Participatory Planning and Design of Reid Parkâ€™s New Central Park
Initial Engagement with the Neighborhood
Visual Preference Exercise
Meeting with Stakeholders and Officials
~ ii ~
The Challenges of Getting Attendance and Feedback
The Challenges of Facilitating as a Student
The Limitations of My Project
The Joy of Community Planning
Factors in Social Change
Modern Methods in Community Design
The Benefits of Open Green Space
Defining Green Space
Equality of Access to Open Space
Biophilia and Nature Deficit Disorder
The State of Charlotteâ€™s Park System
The Culture of Participation
The Power of Politics
~ iii ~
The Power of a Plan
Why this Project? Why Reid Park?
~ iv ~
LIST OF FIGURES
Reid Park Locator Map
Typical Home in Reid Park
West Side Natural and Civic Amenities
Reid Park Vacant Land Map
Reid Park Suggested Road Improvements
Aerial of Amay James Park, 2013
Amay James Park in Disrepair, 2013
Map of Action Projects
Masterplan for new homes and linear park, 1996
Project Timeline and Events with 3 phases of social change
Existing Irwing Creek Greenway in Clanton Park
Proposed location of Irwin Creek Greenway Extension
Existing Conditions of Proposed Central Park
Excerpt from Visual Preference Exercise Sheet
Results of Visual Preference Survey
Participatory Mapping Example
The Core Group Enjoying Mapping the New Park
Rendering of Proposed Multi-use Path and Crosswalk
Reid Park/ Latta Park Neighborhood Context Comparison Maps
Comparison in Quality of Mecklenburg Park Pavilions
Detailed Plan for the New Pavilion Area in Reid Park
Continuums of involvement by the professional and the citizen
Comparison of Cultural Groups by Content Analysis
Analysis of the Need for Parks in Charlotte, NC
Parks & Rec 2012 Community Survey Results
~ vi ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning
Introduction Reid Park is located on the west side of Charlotte, NC (Figure 1). The 213 acre residential neighborhood sits about 3.5 miles southwest of Charlotteâ€™s central business district along an aging commercial corridor, West Boulevard. Reid Parkâ€™s residents are predominantly African American and the majority of their homes are single story ranch style (Figure 2). A significant amount of the homes are rentals, but home ownership is growing. The neighborhood and surrounding areas are rich with civic and natural amenities, although some are not accessible to residents (Figure 3). However, many of the natural open spaces are not formally programmed or maintained. Lack of transit options, safety and poor walkability in the area further discourage the use of these amenities to their full potential.
Figure 1 - Reid Park Locator Map â€“ Source: Virtual Charlotte & Author
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning
Figure 2 - Typical Reid Park Home â€“ Source: Google Maps
Figure 3 - West side natural and civic amenities â€“ Source: Author & Mecklenburg County GIS Data, 2013
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning
History of Reid Park Reid Park was established in 1935 by an African American landowner, Ross Reid. Initially, Reid granted land to aspiring homeowners, but he subsequently sold the land to a real estate company. A special condition was placed on the sale of the land stipulating that lots would only be sold to African Americans. At that time, the land was outside of the Charlotte city limits and thus considered an unincorporated suburb. Reid Park was one of the first exclusively African American neighborhoods in Charlotte. It was not a planned neighborhood, but developed organically as landowners gradually built their homes over the decades. It was annexed by the city of Charlotte in 1959 and the number of homes and residents grew significantly afterward, from 160 homes to 250 in the first decade post-annexation. In its first 40 years of existence, the neighborhood had a high quality of life according to residents. They viewed Reid Park as a village unto itself and it had a small central playground with a merry-goround. But, by the 1980s, the neighborhood began to decline, crime rose and the neighborhood playground was abandoned. Neighborhood advocates reacted in an attempt to save Reid Park and the Reid Park Neighborhood Association was formed in the mid 1980s (Pryer et al, 2010).
Reid Park Associates Four years after the neighborhood association formed, Reid Park received the 1989-1990 Neighborhood of the Year Award given by the Foundation for the Carolinas. Community activists used some of the award monies to organize a local community development corporation (CDC) called Reid Park Associates in order to revitalize the neighborhood (Pryer et
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning al, 2010). The CDC was organized by residents and professionals, but the main leader responsible for the CDC and the neighborhood association was Rickey Hall. Mr. Hall had grown up in Reid Park and moved back into the neighborhood in the mid-1980s. He noticed that other neighborhoods in Charlotte were successful at attracting new development and growth through civic activism in the form of neighborhood association participation and involvement in a CDC. Reid Park Associates had goals of improving the neighborhood from within, rather than relying on the local government entirely. The group was successful at winning grants and funding to improve the housing stock and add new homes to the landscape in Reid Park. For a decade, Reid Park Associates was successful in revitalizing the neighborhood, but in the early 2000s, the organization fell apart due to the improper management of funds (Pryer 2013).
Neighborhood Planning in Reid Park in the early 1990s In 1993, the City of Charlotte began the City Within A City (CWAC) study, assessing 73 of its inner city neighborhoods. The study was partially provoked by resident complaints in neighborhoods drastically lacking basic infrastructure and amenities. One purpose of the CWAC analysis was to inform city leaders of the state of Charlotteâ€™s neighborhoods so that they would be able to properly allocate resources where they were most needed. The study has since grown into the Charlotte Neighborhood Quality of Life Study (CNQOLS) and now includes 173 Neighborhoods Statistical Areas (NSA). In attempting to measure the quality of life in the NSAs, the study looks at 19 variables within four aspects of neighborhood life including social, crime, physical, and economic. During the late 1980s and 1990s while the CDC was active, Reid
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning Park moved from a “challenged” neighborhood to a “stable” neighborhood within the classifications of CWAC and CNQOLS. After the dissolve of the CDC in the early 2000s, the neighborhood again fell backward into the “challenged” classification (Williams et al 2009). Prior to and just after the CWAC study, neighborhood planning efforts were conducted in Reid Park by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Department in 1991 and 1995. In 1991, Char-Meck Planning began with the Reid Park Small Area Plan, a 24 page document that was part of CharMeck Planning’s Special Projects Plan. The preface of the Reid Park Small Area Plan states the objectives and limitations of the document: The Reid Park Special project Plan is a policy document to be used as a guide for land use and funding decisions for the neighborhood. Adoption of this plan by elected officials does not automatically result in any zoning changes, nor does it mean that recommended capital improvement projects are automatically funded (p. 3).
The document went on to state the expected conditions. Zoning changes would have to go through public hearing and review processes and capital improvements would only be funded through the existing Capital Improvements Program or through special funding sources. The preface followed with a seemingly stern statement to the reader, “These projects must compete for resources with all other capital needs and will be funded on a priority basis (p. 3).” Who or how the “priority” was determined is unclear in this document. But, the preface went on to make it clear that planning staff worked with the relatively newly formed Reid Park Neighborhood Association to identify issues and discuss recommendations during several community meetings.
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning The Reid Park Small Area Plan seems to be the third major community effort in a very short period after the neighborhood association was formed in 1985. The second effort preceding the small area plan was a study done by the Urban Institute at UNC Charlotte. The study revealed that 47% of the dwelling units in Reid Park were considered deteriorated or in need of minor repairs and 6% were dilapidated or in need of major repairs. The plan cited this study and continued to note that the neighborhood had stopped growing and had been in decline. Crime, or the perception of crime, a large amount of overgrown or inaccessible and vacant land and inappropriate zoning were other major factors impacting the Reid Park neighborhood at the time (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission 1991). The Reid Park Small Area Plan clearly stated that the Reid Park Neighborhood Association had become increasingly concerned with the state of the community and had been actively pursuing positive changes. The document went on to state that the Plan responded to many of the concerns of residents and would lead to a more positive future for the neighborhood through guidance on how to bring about recommended changes. Two major goals of the Plan were to stabilize existing housing and to encourage new housing development on the large amount of vacant land (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission 1991, 2). Housing protection and improvement recommendations in the Reid Park Small Area Plan of 1991 discussed housing assistance and increased code enforcement as solutions to deteriorating housing conditions at the time. The Plan recommended protecting the existing housing stock through code enforcement and improving it through City of Charlotte programs that provided low interest loans for rehabilitation projects on homes. But, the Plan noted that federal funding
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning for such programs had been drastically cut at the time of publication of the document. In addition, the Plan noted that Reid Park had not been prioritized for such funding and would compete with 21 other census tracts in the Charlotte area for already limited federal funding for housing stock improvement. The Plan then mentioned the formation of the Reid Park CDC in 1990 and recommended a partnership between the city, the neighborhood association and the CDC. The suggestion in the Plan recommended that the partnership would work together to set up a housing improvement revolving fund. In order to create successful infill housing on many of Reid Parkâ€™s vacant lots (Figure 4), the Plan recommended the city partner with the CDC to identify opportunities for such housing and to reach out to partnerâ€™s like Habitat for Humanity for additional support. Additionally, the Plan noted that infrastructure in Reid Park was incomplete and a lack of connecting or paved streets would make successful infill housing difficult. Developers, builders and new residents are not likely to locate to a neighborhood with drastically incomplete infrastructure. Accordingly, the Plan recommended that the city improve the infrastructure and connectivity in Reid Park and that could incentivize new development and growth of the neighborhood (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission 1991, 7). New streets, street connections, water and sewer and sidewalks were recommended by the 1991 Reid Park Small Area plan. The 1940s plat of the neighborhood included a gridded network of streets. Many were never built. This lack of connectivity in Reid Park created many negative issues for residents, but also was a disincentive for prospective home buyers and builders. The Plan recommended a total of 11 streets to be constructed or completed. Only 3 streets were
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning recommended for the construction of sidewalks (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission 1991, 8).
Figure 4 - Reid Park Vacant Land Map - Source: Reid Park Small Area Plan, 1991
Some areas of Reid Park were served by water and sewer, but some were not. Existing water and sewer lines were not large enough to accommodate additional capacity. The Plan also
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning recommended that the city improve and extend water and sewer lines in order to incentivize new development in Reid Park (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission 1991, 9).
Figure 5 â€“ Reid Park Suggested Road Improvements - Source: Reid Park Small Area Plan, 1991
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning
Issues with Public Open Space in Reid Park The 1991 Reid Park Small Area Plan also referred to the existing 30 acre Amay James Park. Located just south of the Amay James Recreation Center; it was a heavily wooded area. Trails and wooded exercise areas had been installed. From its beginning, residents of Reid Park were disturbed by its location and afraid to enter the park. Tucked away in the back corner of the neighborhood and closed off from the community by woods and only one access point behind the recreation center, resident described it as a place you were unsafe to enter. Illegal dumping and illicit activities ultimately dominated the park. It quickly fell into disrepair and was never successful.
Figure 6 â€“ Aerial of Amay James Park, 2013 - Source: Virtual Charlotte & Author
~ 10 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning The Reid Park Small Area Plan recommended the expansion and redesign of Amay James Park in 1991. Planners noted that the Parks Master Plan adopted by Charlotte City Council in 1989 recommended that the park be expanded into a district park. District parks in Mecklenburg County can vary from 40 -100 acres and serve and area of up to 2.5 miles. Expansion of the park was never completed, but the Plan noted the potential for greenway development in the floodplain at the south end of the neighborhood and joint school-park usage, given the proximity of a neighborhood school (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission 1991, 12).
Figure 7 - Amay James Park in Disrepair, 2013 - Source: Author
After the Reid Park Small Area Plan in 1991, that planning effort was followed closely by the Reid Park Neighborhood Action Plan in 1995. Published by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission and the Reid Park Neighborhood Action Plan Focus Group, this
~ 11 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning document followed up on much of the 1991 plan, but added other recommendations and details. The preface of the document stated that, â€œNeighborhood Action Plans are a new initiative begun by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Planning Commission for specific neighborhoods located within the boundaries of the City Within A City area. Action Plans focus on addressing immediate and priority service delivery and development needs.â€? The document continued to note that Action Plans contain short and long term projects and activities that stakeholders and agencies involved can realistically complete within five years. It also noted that, unlike the 1991 plan, the Neighborhood Action Plan was not a policy document, rather an implementation tool. In addition to poor housing conditions stated in the 1991 plan, the 1995 Action Plan reported more detailed data. Children under the age of 18 made up a huge part of the population in Reid Park compared to averages in the City of Charlotte. Almost half of the households were led by a single female and two thirds of those female heads of household had incomes below the poverty line at the time. More than half the households in Reid Park made less than $15, 000 per year and almost 25% of them received some sort of public assistance. Less than half of the population held high school diplomas or equivalent. Despite those adversities, Reid Park showed remarkable community involvement with the partnership of the Reid Park CDC and the neighborhood association (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission 1995, 2).
~ 12 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning The 1995 plan also gave an update on progress in the neighborhood since the 1991 plan. The Reid Park CDC was positioned to renovate two duplexes and build ten new single family homes. Zoning recommendations had been heeded by the City and industrial zoning was removed from Reid Park and single family zoning was strengthened or implemented. The City’s Neighborhood Reinvestment Program and the City’s Storm Water Services Division were in the process of spending $2.2 million to address infrastructure recommendations from the 1991 plan (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission 1995, 3). Progress was underway, but much was still left to do as the neighborhood had been classified as “fragile” by the CWAC study. With respect to Amay James Park, the 1995 plan reported that, “The neighborhood park has never been functional. It was developed on the edge of the neighborhood in a heavily wooded and secluded location. Restrooms were eventually demolished by vandals. No facilities other than a walking trail and picnic shelters were ever developed. A functionally, centrally located park with high visibility is needed (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission 1995, 5).” Additionally, the Vision Plan and Recommendations section of the 1995 document (p. 6) stated that “the development of a linear, neighborhood park will contribute to the beautification, marketability, and feeling of “community” of the neighborhood.” The document pointed out the new, preferred location of the linear neighborhood park (Figure 8) and mentioned its connection to the planned Irwin Creek Greenway system stating that, “that connection should be emphasized in developing the park (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission 1995, 10).”
Priority i and ii street improvements (Figure 8) were recommended to be completed
~ 13 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning within the five year time frame, and they were. Priority iii street improvements (Figure 8) were recommended to be completed â€œas funding becomes available,â€? and they were never completed (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission 1995, 12).
Figure 8 - Map of Action Projects - Source: Reid Park Neighborhood Action Plan, 1995
~ 14 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning Goal #2 in the Infrastructure and Community Facilities of the plan was “to have a usable, neighborhood park which is an asset to the neighborhood and which is connected to the Irwin Creek greenway (p. 12).” In order to achieve this goal, the plan stated that a land swap was necessary between Mecklenburg County Parks & Recreation and the Reid Park CDC (Figure 8). The CDC owned the land where the proposed park was to be developed and they wanted to build new homes on the land that Parks & Rec owned which harbored the existing, decrepit Amay James Park. The CDC commissioned a master plan from Wirth & Associates to illustrate their goal for the construction of new homes on the Amay James park land (Figure 9). The plan stated on page 12 that “the park is to be a linear park similar in nature to Latta Park in Charlotte’s Dilworth community.” The action plan noted that Mecklenburg County Parks & Rec was responsible for this step and that the implementation schedule to complete the land swap, planning and let bids out for construction of the park was by the end of 1996 (CharlotteMecklenburg Planning Commission 1995, 12). The land swap was the only portion of this action step that was completed. Part two of this action step was to develop the Irwin Creek greenway at the southern end of Reid Park that would connect to the new linear park (Figure 8). The action plan stated that funding had already been identified for this work, but that remaining property acquisitions still needed to be made. According to the action plan, Mecklenburg County Parks & Rec was responsible for completing this step and the implementation schedule noted that construction of the greenway was to begin by September 1996 (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission
~ 15 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning 1995, 13). The needed property was acquired, but the construction of the greenway was never started.
Figure 9 - Master plan for new homes and linear park, 1996 - Source: Wirth & Associates
Decline of the Reid Park CDC and the Neighborhood During the 1990s, the Reid Park CDC and the neighborhood association were making huge strides in improving the neighborhood. The CDC had been awarded a total of $4.5 million in various grants that they were to use for mortgages, to improve and renovate properties and to purchase additional properties. Reid Park won the Foundation for the Carolinas Neighborhood of the Year award in 1990. The CDC successfully lobbied for the construction of Reid Park
~ 16 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning Academy, a magnet school that cost $7 million. Residents were becoming much more active in civic life and serving on boards in the community. The CDC was offering financial courses to residents and more personalized counseling to individuals to help with the home ownership process. The land swap that could make way for the new linear park and subdivision of 46 new homes was approved by City Council in 1997. The Charlotte Quality of Life Study classified Reid Park as “stable” in 1998, much improved from “fragile.” Things were looking very good for Reid Park. Then, in the early 2000s, the Reid Park CDC fell into financial trouble. They could not raise enough money to hire an administrative assistant and ultimately mismanaged funds. Immediately, their partnership with the City was terminated and their reputation in the media was tarnished. The organization folded. The land that had been swapped from Parks & Rec that was to be the location of the new subdivision fell back into the ownership of Parks & Rec and Reid Park was left with nothing. The neighborhood began a steady decline over the decade from 2000-2010. But, in the late 2000s, Charlotte Action Research Project (CHARP), a community activist organization, led by UNC Charlotte professor Dr. Janni Sorensen began working with Reid Park to rebound from the decade of decline (Pryer et al, 16-20).
The Participatory Planning and Design of Reid Park’s New Central Park Leaders in Reid Park knew that unless they created a formal master plan showing their ideas for the new park, it would be difficult to gain traction on their decades-long goals of a Latta Parklike linear neighborhood park. Although CHARP had been working in the neighborhood for years, this stalled park idea was a thorn in the sides of Reid Park community leaders. As a
~ 17 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning graduate student at UNC Charlotte searching for a topic that would be appropriate for my final capstone project to satisfy requirements for my Master of Arts in Community Planning, I connected with CHARP. Reid Park had a specific need for someone with design capabilities to help them realize the vision of their new park and to put it on paper. I had the need to practice the community planning skills that I had learned while studying at UNCC, and the Reid Park neighborhood offered a real setting in which to practice my training.
Objective CHARP had been working in Reid Park since 2009 and the neighborhood had been passive recipients of services and efforts of many organizations. One cornerstone behind my objective was to build on the past efforts in the neighborhood and transition the passive recipient dynamic into one of active participant. Before meeting with or contacting anyone in Reid Park, my conversation with CHARP led me to believe that the residents of Reid Park had expressed a desire to move forward with the idea of creating a central, linear neighborhood park and they had concerns with speeding on their streets. At the outset, I intended to engage in participatory planning efforts with the neighborhood to further define their concerns and then ask how design could suggest some solutions to their issues.
Timeline CHARP connected me with the Reid Park neighborhood in that they secured a time slot at the June 2013 neighborhood meeting where I would be allowed to introduce myself to the neighborhood. In preparation for the meeting, I compiled a series of images that I thought best
~ 18 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning illustrated the products and services I could offer to the community. The images were samples of professional park master plans and streetscape improvement plans that I sourced from Google Images. In anticipation of forming a group of residents to engage in participatory design processes, I produced an interest sheet where residents could sign up to be notified of small group design meetings.
Initial Engagement with the Neighborhood At the June 2013 neighborhood meeting, I took about 5 minutes to explain my status in graduate school, my interest in helping Reid Park produce designs and to pass around the images that represented the sort of work I could produce for them. Then I asked the residents if they would give me permission to work with them. They voted and everyone agreed to allow me to work in the neighborhood. I then passed around the interest sheet and 10 residents out of almost 20 who attended the neighborhood meeting signed up as interested in participating in the design meetings that I assumed would follow. While not having an understanding of how committed and available the residents would be, I only suggested a first meeting. Those interested in participating discussed when it should occur and we all decided that we would meet one week from that moment. In my opinion, that was the beginning of the true â€œparticipatoryâ€? nature of the project. I did not tell them when we would meet, we all decided on it together during the neighborhood meeting. But, it is important to note how willing the residents were to participate at the outset. Table 1 shows the full timeline of events as they relate to concentrations of our involvement in the 3 phases of social change (Hou and Rios 2003).
~ 19 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning
Table 1 - Project Timeline and Events with 3 phases of social change â€“ Source: Author
Mobilization was active throughout, but concentrated early in the process. Cultural framing was less concentrated throughout, but more in the early stages. Political manipulation was more active toward the middle and end of the process.
~ 20 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning After we had agreed on a date, time and location for the first design group meeting and before I could leave the floor, Rickey Hall, neighborhood association president offered to show me around the proposed park area of concern prior to the meeting in a week’s time. I accepted and we met at his house two days later. I have included a brief description of my tour of the neighborhood’s existing conditions with Rickey Hall, because I determined that this event was a critical point in my project timeline and the outcome of the project. It set a course for me personally. It affected my attitude toward the project and my relationship with Rickey, which undeniably drove the project in the direction that it took. Rickey began by showing me the existing greenway that terminates about a half mile east of Reid Park in a large, regional park called Clanton Park. I had seen this segment of the Irwin Creek Greenway on maps, but never walked it (Figure 10).
Figure 10 - Existing Irwin Creek Greenway in Clanton Park – Source: Author
Immediately I was struck by the serenity of the greenway. It felt like I was in another country, or a distant rural setting. A wave of stress relief moved over me. The sound of city traffic was
~ 21 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning gone and had been replaced by the sound of a gentle breeze, birds chirping and the comforting warmth of the sun. I was surprised at the amount of traffic we saw on the greenway during a weekday around lunch time. Next, Rickey showed me where the greenway terminated and where the extension was planned to continue, likely under Clanton road along Irwin Creek. The section of the Irwin Creek Greenway that we toured had been planned to be extended along the southern edge of the Reid Park neighborhood and only feet from the proposed southern edge of the central neighborhood park.
Figure 11 - Proposed location of Irwin Creek Greenway Extension Adjacent to Reid Park â€“ Source: Author
Even having grown up as a child playing in unmanicured settings, I was reluctant to follow Rickey into the linear field that would house the greenway extension. We traversed rough terrain, poison ivy and wild blackberry briars to get there. But, once there, again I felt a calmness warm over me (Figure 11). We saw a herd of deer and smelled the beautiful flowers of the blooming mimosa tree, a staple in North Carolina wilderness landscapes. After seeing
~ 22 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning where the greenway would connect to the neighborhood, we walked the 50 feet to the southern edge of the proposed park and entered the dark, wooded space. Again, I was apprehensive, though the landscape was familiar to my childhood play memories. We tromped through fields of poison ivy and swatted large mosquitos, but then we reached the interior and the forest opened up. In the interior of the proposed park space, the noise of the city again disappeared and the sound of birds was dominant. Only 30 feet from the street, we were in another land. Rickey and I recalled similar memories growing up romping in such woods and catching crawdads (crayfish) in creeks. He confirmed with excitement that the idea children could have a place to again experience nature in Reid Park, like he had growing up there and I had in similar urban parks in Greensboro, NC, was a cornerstone of the neighborhood’s vision for this proposed park. We called that area of the landscape “the cathedral” due to its calming, serene and majestic effects on us coupled with the large, mature trees arching overhead like a cathedral ceiling (Figure 12).
Figure 12 - Existing Conditions of Proposed Central Park - Source: Author
~ 23 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning In a matter of 2 hours, my perspective on this project had been permanently altered. I had been excited about working on such a project and I knew the potential for it to be a very rewarding and enlightening experience at the outset, but after those few hours with Rickey, a passion for the project was instilled in me. Physically walking the areas surrounding the neighborhood with a resident who had such a history in the neighborhood made me feel part of the neighborhood for the first time. Additionally, I had begun to develop a relationship with the most involved and potentially the most powerful resident in Reid Park. We saw eye to eye.
S.W.O.T Analysis One method that is popular and even mandated in some cases in planning processes is an analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) of a given project. Strategic planning and the SWOT analysis originated in US business schools in the 1960s. They have been extremely influential in mainstreaming the idea that a good strategy requires the recognition of external influences (Threats and Opportunities) and internal characteristics (Strengths and Weaknesses). In fact, some planning experts feel that the SWOT analysis is â€œalive if not exactly wellâ€? in modern practices and critics have pinpointed weaknesses in this method (Hill et al 47). This was true to my experience with the core design group in Reid Park. We attempted to perform a SWOT analysis as one of our methods in the participatory planning of the new central park. The core group was successful at identifying strengths and opportunities, but not weaknesses. We identified dozens of strengths and opportunities, some
~ 24 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning of which were the same. But, the group was unable to identify more than two or three threats and couldn’t identify any weaknesses. This was counter to another experience I had working in a similar neighborhood in Charlotte on neighborhood planning efforts. That neighborhood identified many more weaknesses and threats than they did strengths and opportunities. Perhaps the SWOT analysis, at least in my two experiences, was drastically affected by the user groups’ perception of itself and its current state. For instance, Reid Park leaders constantly expressed positivity, passion and progressive discussion/action during my involvement and I understand that it had been the case prior to my involvement as well, as previous students that had worked in the neighborhood corroborated. Contrastingly, the other neighborhood that I have worked with, which I will not name, was entrenched in the negative attitude that they had been continuously looked over by the city and the government. Bitterness and apprehensiveness to work together was pervasive. The results of their SWOT analysis corroborated that, being dominated by threats and weaknesses. Whereas, Reid Park leaders that performed the SWOT analysis were steeped in the positive aspects of their community. Although it could be argued that they had been “looked over” by the city and county for decades, they chose not to dwell on that, but focus on the positive. They were so successful at this approach that they were unable to identify weaknesses and threats in the SWOT analysis. In fact, they became very uncomfortable, silent and the mood was clearly shifting to unsatisfactory while we were attempting to identify weaknesses and threats. I sensed the shift happening and felt so uncomfortable that I suggested we abandon the exercise and work on something else.
~ 25 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning Hill et al (1997) worked with businesses in strategic planning research and identified concerns about the SWOT method that they identified as: •
The length of the lists generated in the exercise
The lack of requirement to prioritize or weigh the factors identified in the exercise.
Words and phrases used were vague and inexact.
No resolution of conflicts was acted upon.
No requirement to verify statements with data.
A single level of analysis was all that was required.
There was no direct link to an implementation or action phase to follow (51).
The authors recommended that SWOT, as they had reviewed it, was no longer an effective tool of analysis, but they acknowledged that it could be if used with more rigor, challenging of assumptions, investigation and validation (51). From my experiences, SWOT needs to be explored with care when working with neighborhood groups and certainly shouldn’t be seen as a requirement in planning processes, but a tool that may or may not be appropriate in any given scenario.
Visual Preference Exercise One method that proved to be very successful in getting feedback from the neighborhood residents in Reid Park was a Visual Preference exercise. In one of the early meetings with the core group, I recall asking the group what amenities they would like to see in the new park. There were very few responses. It occurred to me that I would need to bring images in of typical amenities in neighborhood parks and have the group select ones that they preferred in the new park. I started with looking at our precedent, Latta Park, for amenities that existed there. I compiled a gridded sheet of images and left space next to each image where residents
~ 26 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning could place a check by the preferred amenity (Figure 13). They were instructed to select as many or as few as they desired. I also created a section on the back of the preference sheet where they could write in additional amenities that I had not placed on the preference sheet. Some amenities that were written in were a basketball court and doggie waste clean-up stations. The results from the surveys were compiled and showed that grilling areas and fountains (splash pads) were the most preferred amenities (Figure 14). But, despite the rankings, we included all the amenities in the final master plan of the park.
Figure 13 - Excerpt from Visual Preference Exercise Sheet - Source: Author
~ 27 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning
Figure 14 - Results of Visual Preference Survey - Source: Author
Participatory Mapping Another method that was extremely successful in my work with Reid Park was the use of participatory mapping. We approached it in a very low-tech way compared to some literature reviewed here that used P-GIS, databases and analytical computer models to review data. I used GIS to produce maps of the park area, but that was the extent of the technological involvement. When working with the core group over the first few meetings, I noticed that it could be likely that several members of the group were unfamiliar with reading aerial maps, plans and
~ 28 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning cartographic maps. One of the first signs of this appeared early in the first and second meetings when I had produced aerial maps of various types that showed aerial imagery of the Reid Park neighborhood and maps that showed parcel lines, building footprints, streets and sidewalks. Some members of the group quietly looked at the maps and quickly passed them on to others to review. In later meetings, those same group members seemed to become braver in holding and reviewing the graphics; we were able to discuss more and to use the maps as tools. But, they had difficulty identifying where their home was on the map. They couldnâ€™t grasp geographic orientation and had difficulty understanding the change from a perspective view, which we see on a daily basis as we walk around, and an aerial view, which is a 2D orthographic view looking from above and down onto a location. It occurred to me about halfway through working with the core group that I should have addressed those issues earlier in the process and it may have helped those members that were having difficulty to be more involved in our discussions and planning. For the mapping exercise, I produced topographic maps using a triangulated irregular network (TIN) with GIS. Since, aerial imagery could complicate the maps and make topographic lines more difficult to see, I decided that a TIN might be more legible. It resembles a physical model and shows realistic shading as if one were viewing the surface of the earth with no trees or other materials. I showed the core group how to decipher sloped areas versus flat areas. We first circled flat areas as they would be the most likely candidate for any construction of amenities like a pavilion or splash pad. We also outlined the floodplain, as nothing would be able to be constructed within it. Then, I asked participants to select one of the amenities to be
~ 29 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning placed in each flat or gently sloped area. I explained that the pavilion and splash pad would require the flattest land in order to facilitate construction and eliminate large scale grading. I told the residents that gently sloping areas would be ideal for larger grilling areas and open lawn areas. Once participants had completed this, I asked them to imagine standing at the pavilion location, for instance. Then I asked, “How will you get to the basketball court from here?” They replied, “We need trails.” I informed them that trails would likely move parallel to the topographic lines and that constructing trails down steep slopes was not advised. Together, we had a rough outline of where each of our amenities would be placed in the park and a loose network of trails had been laid out (Figure 15). Some had suggested different locations for amenities than others, but the trail networks were very similar. I took these maps and used them to compile the final draft plan, which I brought back to the core group for feedback before creating the final master plan. The group was initially hesitant to pick up a pen and draw on the maps, but once they got started, everyone was excited and enthusiastic. That was one of our most enjoyable meetings (Figure 16).
~ 30 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning
Figure 15 - Participatory Mapping Example - Source: Author
Figure 16 - The Core Group Enjoying Mapping the New Park - Source: Author
~ 31 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning
Mini Charrette As part of the research, I decided to attempt a charrette-like meeting to take place during the monthly neighborhood meeting on August 13, 2013. My intent was to test some of the methods that are recommended in the charrette model. It never materialized. The monthly neighborhood meetings take place in a small church that is approximately 1000 sf. In a typical charrette, the facilitators might sit groups of 4-6 together around tables to discuss the ideas or drawings that are being produced. Participants might give feedback, come up with new ideas, design elements or uncover some road block that needs to be resolved during their potentially involved group discussion. Images might be pinned up to the walls and participants could be given sticky notes to write comments on the images, like a visual preference survey, but this method allows for comments to be more in depth. We, Rickey Hall and I, had pinned process images up and placed them on two tripods at the front of the church room. The intent was to invite people up to the front to look at the images, discuss them and to leave comments. We produced small pieces of paper that participants could use to write down their feedback. It had been shown by previous student groups working in the neighborhood that residents often felt uncomfortable commenting aloud in front of others, but they were more willing to give feedback anonymously on paper. As attendees of the monthly meeting began to come into the room, before we could get them to come up and gather around the images, they quickly sat down and were unwilling to move. I realized that the charrette model, as we had attempted it, spurring lively discussion and garnering feedback was not as feasible with these residents. They seemed set in a pattern of coming to the
~ 32 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning neighborhood meetings, sitting down and listening to the business of the neighborhood as it was told to them. They were habitual passive recipients of information. While the board members and neighborhood leaders were quite comfortable engaging in discussion and giving their opinions, the typical residents would have to be encouraged to do so over a period of time in order for a charrette model to be useful. After I had been engaging with the neighborhood meetings for four months, residents finally began to discuss and comment in a more widespread manner at the September meeting. If residents like this need pre-charrette training on how to be engaged and to participate, how much time does that add to the process? Are such residents able to attend more and more events with an already tight schedule and limited availability to give time to civic life? Learning how to be engaged, how to read maps and drawings and similar skills necessary to be an involved participant in a charrette would be extremely beneficial to residents. Such skills would add to the likelihood of sustained involvement over longer periods of time, even decades. But, I would submit that an effort to train citizens, like the ones in Reid Park, needs to be well planned prior to an upcoming community design charrette. It would need to be a project within itself, as residents donâ€™t have the time or capacity for multiple projects that require significant time and effort. They become fatigued with planning and participation. I believe that our process was more successful than a typical charrette would have been. In fact, planning experts have stated that typical planning processes donâ€™t work for many communities because they are too resource intensive, take too long to complete and are not easily understood or implemented by the general public. They call our process Community Action Planning
~ 33 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning (Hamdi and Goethert 1997, Sanoff 2000). It works better than a traditional charrette process in small communities and neighborhoods, because it is a quick process, requires little resources and is problem driven.
Meeting with Stakeholders and Officials At the outset of this project and for much of the timeline (Table 1), we were very unclear as to how to move forward; we had no road map, no precedent to guide us. During the core group design meetings, we began to brainstorm on stakeholders, political assets and public agencies that might help give some direction on how to move forward with creating our plan so that it might reflect an accurate vision, that is, an implementable one. Although we maintained the standpoint through most of the process that we were only creating a vision plan for a new park and that I was only working on a student project, we knew that it needed to fall in line with existing guidelines and regulations in order to have the potential for implementation later. In early July, I began to reach out to various city agencies that we had identified as potential sources of information. The Charlotte Department of Transportation was the first to respond to my request to meet. Reid Park, in addition to its desire for a new central park, had concerns about speeding down the long linear streets in the neighborhood. With little infrastructure in place, like sidewalks, they wanted to explore the possibilities of installing speed humps and other traffic calming measures throughout the neighborhood. A small part of my responsibilities were to suggest solutions as part of the larger vision plan we were creating. The DOT was extremely helpful in the meeting in July, but I must say that they failed to return my emails for further information at later points during the project. But, during our meeting, they
~ 34 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning helped me to understand that the park parcels were county owned land and the streets were city owned land, so I would be dealing with two separate entities. This simple, but essential element seemed like it should have been apparent to me, but a clear understanding of local government hierarchies had not been fully instilled in my planning courses until I began this project. In fact, many of the agencies I met with understood operations within their own groups, but not outside of their groups. Another important piece of information that came from the DOT meeting was that the processes that a neighborhood needs to go through to request new streets, sidewalks or traffic calming measures are set in place. Requesting new streets or sidewalks requires petition processes, a series of community meetings and is very, very lengthy and expensive. In our core group meetings, and referring to the early 1990s plans, we identified some DOT rights of way that were planned as streets, but never built. While constructing streets would improve connectivity in the neighborhood, a goal that the residents firmly agreed upon, we wanted to explore other alternatives that were less intensive than newly constructed streets, but that might also improve connectivity. The DOT informed me of the possibility of constructing a multi-use path in those rights of way instead of new streets. The process is a fraction of the cost of a new street, less time intensive and funding was available at the time through a program called The Minor Gap Connections Program. Such a path would improve bikeability and walkability in the neighborhood, rather than automobile connectivity. The residents and core group liked the idea of this path. In fact, some were already using the rights of way to informally walk between blocks. Additionally, where the path crossed existing streets, there would be an opportunity to slow down traffic and create a crosswalk (Figure 17).
~ 35 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning
Figure 17 - Rendering of Proposed Multi-use Path and Crosswalk - Source: Author
A few days later, I met with officials from Parks & Rec. I initially requested the meeting to find out the status of the proposed Irwin Creek Greenway Extension and when it might be scheduled for construction. I was told that it was not currently funded and that greenway planners at Parks & Rec would request funding for it in the future bond vote in 2016, but that it was listed as high priority in their greenway master plan. This was disheartening, because the plans that were completed in the early 1990s reported that the greenway extension had already been approved for funding then. So what happened to the money and why was it never built? But, I didnâ€™t poke and prod during the meeting. Rather, I tried to maintain a positive tone. The meeting with Parks & Rec did unveil some important facts. They did not have a current plan for the new park in Reid Park, but there was a line item in the budget of $660,000 for the
~ 36 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning construction of a new park in the neighborhood. However, the priority of the park was listed in the 50s or 60s, which was very low and it was unlikely that the funding would be available before 2016-2018. Another important piece of information that Parks & Rec helped me to understand was the status of the land that had been swapped in the late 1990s (Figures 8 & 9). They contacted the lawyer that had handled the swap and he confirmed that the land previously owned by Reid Park Associates was now owned again by Parks & Rec. Interestingly, they told me that despite these road blocks, anything was possible with political support. Also, when I asked if they could provide me with a template of steps that need to be followed for a neighborhood to request a new park, they replied that one did not exist. Each effort was a case-by-case basis and all were approached and completed in very different ways. It was clear that we would have to figure the process out and navigate it on our own. Still, we did not have a clear picture of how to move forward and create the plan. But, with every meeting, some questions were answered and we developed new ones. Later meetings with area planners in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Department were also of little help. They could not provide a road map. They recommended contacting the department Neighborhood and Business Services, that the organization had assistance available to help neighborhoods navigate such projects. They also informed me that, despite the plans from the early 1990s calling for a new park in the neighborhood, those documents held little weight against the plans and budget priorities of Parks & Rec. I followed the plannersâ€™ recommendations of contacting Neighborhood and Business Services. That meeting was also of little help, although they were extremely supportive of our plan, which was in rough draft form
~ 37 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning at that time. In fact, all agencies I met with thought that our concept was a great idea, but offered little more than vocal support. The course of the project changed when we met with County Commissioner Vilma Leake who represented the district that Reid Park was in. While I had met with other stakeholders previously in the process, Rickey took initiative once the plan was finished and reached out to the commissioner. She immediately supported our plan, which was in final draft form at that point. She had several questions for us that were directed at clarifying the history of this idea, the processes that we had gone through and the nature of my involvement with the neighborhood. She asked how she could help and said that the county had already approved the budget for the year. We told her that we needed to understand the steps that would be needed to get our plan accepted by Parks & Rec. We made it clear that it was only a vision plan, but it was the neighborhood’s vision of what they wanted their new park to be. When and if Parks & Rec could build a new park in the neighborhood was less of an issue at that point. We were more focused on the adoption of our plan into their parks master plan to ensure that the neighborhood’s vision would shape the new park, not someone else’s vision. She quickly recommended that we set up a meeting with the Director of Parks & Rec together in order to find out what to do next. Rickey coordinated with the commissioner and Parks & Rec to set up the meeting. About two weeks later, we met and showed the plan. The commissioner was not in the room yet and when we walked in, the Director of Parks & Rec asked what we were meeting about. I immediately said that we had a vision plan for a new park in Reid Park. He then said, “I’ve never heard of it.
~ 38 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning I don’t know anything about this.” I got the impression that he was upset that we were meeting with the commissioner about this and that we had already drafted a plan without their knowledge. Rickey jumped in and said, “This is an idea that has been in place since the late 1980s,” to which the director reiterated that he had never heard of it. Once we pinned up the plan, he said, “oh, and you’ve already got a plan done. Typically, we would have been involved before now.” I told him that we had met with Parks & Rec officials as part of the process and that we had operated in good faith to inform a wide range of stakeholders through the process. At that point, the commissioner walked in and I felt the director altered his previously confused and combative tone. During the rest of the meeting, Rickey and I presented the plan and described the process we had undergone in the neighborhood. The commissioner followed with some questions to the director like, “is there money in the budget for this park,” and “how long would it take to build it,” and “when could they get started on it?” The director outlined a very brief and hazy process that his department would have to follow, which included a few public meetings and a budgeting process based on the design we had presented. The neighborhood would have to prioritize elements of our plan in order to decide what was most important to be constructed with the available monies. Final designs would have to be drawn by contracted engineers and architects, then all would have to be approved by the Parks & Rec commission and the County Commission. There was no formal acceptance of our plan, or adoption, the director just sort of agreed to move forward with the processes needed to create the park. He stated that the majority of construction could be completed by late 2014 if all planning and design went smoothly. Later, we found out that the
~ 39 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning commissioner had approved about $600,000 for the construction of the park and $350,000 for the construction of the Irwin Creek Greenway extension. I am still unsure of how this came to be, but I do firmly believe that without the commissioner’s support and her targeted questions in that meeting, Reid Park would not be getting a new park this soon. I am also inclined to believe that the commissioner must have been driven to push the park through, because it was an election year. Or, perhaps she was compelled by the history of the idea and it never being completed. Maybe it was down to Rickey’s constant phone calls. There is still much that is unclear about how this went from being a student project and a vision plan to an actively funded, planned and constructed real project.
The Concept Perhaps one major reason for the success of our project was the fact that our designs were based off a very successful precedent, Latta Park in the Dilworth neighborhood of Charlotte. Latta Park was designed by world renowned planners and landscape designers in the early 1900s as the heart of one of Charlotte’s first streetcar suburbs, Dilworth. Wealthy whites who worked in uptown Charlotte sought respite from the grimy city and chose to locate in serene settings outside of the urban core. The neighborhood of Dilworth was designed around Latta Park and contained tree lined, curvilinear streets that inspired a feeling of walking in the wilderness. Homes and their porches front onto all sides of the park. It is widely known that public spaces are more successful and safe if they are easily watched by the public. The proposed park land in Reid Park almost entirely resembles many of the conditions of Latta Park (Figure 18).
~ 40 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning
Figure 18 - Reid Park and Latta Park Neighborhood Context Comparison Maps - Source: Author
The basis for selecting amenities to include in the park came directly from those that exist in Latta Park. Although the precedent of Latta Park fits the scenario in Reid Park, the two neighborhoods are very different. Homes in Dilworth can reach values in excess of $1,000,000, while homes in Reid Park can sell for $60,000. So an interesting situation exists when residents of Reid Park believe that they should be entitled to a park with the same amenities as one that exists in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Charlotte. Moving forward through the final design and implementation phases with Parks & Rec will be crucial, as the residents of Reid Park will need to stay vigilant and involved in the process to ensure that their new park
~ 41 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning amenities consists of a high quality that meets and exceeds the expectations of the residents (Figure 19).
Figure 19 - Comparison in Quality of Park Pavilions - Source: Google Maps & Author
Another piece of the concept for the park that I believe was particularly compelling to stakeholders and residents is the idea of a 21st century natural learning environment. It was
~ 42 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning always at the core of the interests of the steering committee as we worked on planning the park. The core group identified the opportunity for the park to be a gathering place for children and keyed in on the potential for children in the neighborhood schools to benefit from the park. While science, technology, engineering and math are subjects that are getting a lot of attention in Charlotte area schools currently, the Reid Park residents were passionate about their new park being an opportunity to enhance environmental education. So, we designed a huge garden area that could be used for outdoor classes (Figure 20). The plan calls for an educational garden where children might be able to learn about native plants, edible or medicinal plants, animals, biology, ecology and sustainability. There is a wide range of literature that cites the benefits of experiencing the natural environment, especially in children. Children are especially impressionable and are quickly developing and learning in the early stages of their lives. Such an amenity in a neighborhood park could have significant positive impacts on the lives and futures of children who are able to use it frequently.
~ 43 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning
Figure 20 - Detailed Plan for the Pavilion, Splash Pad and Educational Garden in Reid Park - Source: Author
~ 44 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning
Rigor I would submit that the methodology that I used in this research could have been much more rigorous. But, the nature of this research was more experiential and qualitative than it was hard, scientific and quantitative. The most successful aspect of this project, for myself, was learning how to plan and design with the neighborhood. From a broader standpoint, an 18 acre park is now being built in a neighborhood that has needed this for three decades. We achieved this goal together in a participatory planning and design project. If I had taken the approach of focusing on a deep analysis of methods or capturing some quantitative information during this project, I feel that I would have missed the opportunity to form deep connections and relationships with those working on the planning and design of the vision for the park. If I did anything well, I would say that I let myself become immersed in the process; I gave myself to it. Perhaps because of that approach, the process was not stifled and was allowed to unfold before us. Although my methods lacked rigor, they were very successful. We had no roadmap available to guide us on the planning, design and implementation of a new neighborhood park. But, we muddled through and figured the process out along the way with diligence and persistence together.
Reflections The Challenges of Getting Attendance and Feedback In a neighborhood of about 300 homes, consistent attendance at the neighborhood meetings fluctuated between 25 and 35 during the 6 months that I worked on this project. That equates to around 10% of residents, assuming all 300 homes in the neighborhood are occupied, which may
~ 45 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning not be the case. While attendance at the monthly neighborhood association meetings seems high to me, residents are often “talked at” rather than being part of an integral discussion. Having said that, I have experienced similar meetings in other neighborhoods where so much banter goes back and forth between leaders and residents that the neighborhood organization’s business cannot be conducted or reported. So, it seems to me that if a participatory discussion is desired in order to garner feedback, leaders of monthly neighborhood association meetings need to walk a fine line between delivering information and providing a setting for democratic conversation. Additionally, at the first meeting, where I asked residents who would want to be involved in a core group of participants to discuss designing the new park, 10 people signed up as interested. Only 5 people showed up at the first meeting. I called and emailed those on the list that had expressed interest in participating. Those who never showed either did not answer my calls or gave excuses as to why they didn’t attend. So, the involvement in the core group at first seemed disheartening, but it actually may have benefitted as we remained an intimate group of folks who had already developed relationships and trust between each other. Additionally, many residents did not understand the massive implications of implementing a new park in their neighborhood. That certainly could have affected the lack of feedback. It was difficult to explain the importance of this project to the residents and to instill an excitement in them about it. The core group and neighborhood leaders understood all too well, but the average resident did not. However, by the third monthly neighborhood meeting, after we had been updating the residents on our progress, I began to notice more enthusiasm, feedback and comments. Perhaps the early lack of understanding that I perceived was actually a somewhat
~ 46 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning jaded attitude. Perhaps residents could have felt that they had been looked over by planning efforts and city investments for years and that this project would be no different. In fact, prior to Parks & Rec accepting our plan and agreeing to move forward with it, I had to consistently state that this was only a vision plan. I had to avoid seeming like I was promising them a new park that I could not guarantee. Another challenge that affected our project was the residents’ inability to comprehend the maps, graphics and images that I used to illustrate the concepts. This most concerns me about the popular use of charrettes. Similar maps, graphics and academic analyses are used in charrettes. If residents don’t understand them, how are they able to participate? In fact, residents who don’t understand may be uncomfortable in asking questions. They may think they are the only one who doesn’t understand what is being discussed. To attempt to combat this, I approached people during our meetings that seemed to be unclear and asked if they needed additional clarification. In our core group design meetings, I had to teach members of the group how to read maps and graphics that we were using.
The Challenges of Facilitating as a Student It seemed to me that using the title ‘student project’ or similar to define what I was doing did open up several doors. I have heard that city/county agencies are more receptive to student requests for information than they may be of professionals who are working for profit. Everyone I reached out to made themselves available fairly quickly for a meeting with me. But, I was certainly walking blind through this project. There were no precedents, no transparency within public offices with respect to processes to follow in order to accomplish our goals and
~ 47 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning little was offered to me in the way of direction from city officials. With the exception of CDOT, whose processes were clearly outlined, and the county commissioner, who was able to set a meeting with the highest positional leader within Parks & Rec, no one seemed to be able to help us get where we needed to go in the project. Working as a lone student, rather than in a group may have been easier in some regards. Sometimes, group work can be difficult when some members put more or less effort in than others. Quality of work can also vary in group work from member to member. During my project, I was only accountable to myself. But, I felt that I worked for the Reid Park Neighborhood Association, so I was ultimately accountable to them. That fact seemed to motivate me more. Additionally, when Rickey began to co-present with me in meetings and when he began to take over the scheduling and coordination of meetings, it felt like we had developed a great partnership. We were on the same page. That energy gradually moved to other members of the core group as well. We didnâ€™t have to schedule a transfer of leadership from me leading the core group meetings to Rickey leading the effort to coordinate planning with Parks & Rec. It just happened naturally. Some aspects of working with the residents came so easily and were fun and effortless.
The Limitations of My Project At the beginning of the project, I thought that one major limitation would be that it was only a student project and was unlikely to be implemented. Otherwise, it seems that some of the limitations of this project were actually assets in the end. For instance, being constrained by an academic schedule seemed daunting at first. But, it forced us to work quickly and to make
~ 48 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning decisions that placed this effort ahead of others in priority. This limited the chance that we could lose momentum and positive energy. The urge to complete certain steps of the project before the end of my semester gave us a clear goal to shoot for with a firm deadline. I worked as an unfunded student totally for free. The lack of funding and resources available to a student could have actually been an advantage as well. The fact that we were all volunteering our time for free on the project may have taken away any complications that the injection of funds into a group can create. The lack of money put us all on the same page and limited the opportunity for jealousy, competition for funds and other negativity to invade our processes. The lack of resources ensured that we took a simple, grassroots approach to our planning. It limited the chance that high tech resources and techniques would overshadow the basic goals that we had set, to get a vision plan completed and present it to the neighborhood and Parks & Rec. There was always a noticeable difficulty of working on a long term project in a short period of time. I became so involved that I am now reluctant to become uninvolved in Reid Parkâ€™s efforts. But, I must balance that urge with the realistic time availabilities that will be set once I move from a flexible studentâ€™s schedule to that of a 9-5 worker. But, I know that there is a clear desire to continue volunteering in the neighborhood after Iâ€™ve completed my university responsibilities. Rickey has asked me to and I plan to serve on the steering committee that will be formed to direct the planning efforts and see this park come to fruition.
~ 49 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning
The Joy of Community Planning If I had been through a rough day, or week, when I met the core group for a design meeting or attended one of the monthly neighborhood meetings, I was always cheered up. The persistent positivity and forward movement of the Reid Park Neighborhood Association was infectious. I firmly believe that their attitude and approach to issues was a critical component of our ability to work together on this project and to have success. This aspect made meeting with the core group extremely enjoyable. We talked briefly about family and life events with each other as we discussed how to proceed with the park project. In a very short time, the residents included me in their inner circle and I was no longer an outsider. I quickly felt like a resident myself and the core group became friends of mine. This fueled my passion to deliver my best efforts to the residents. I have worked in other neighborhoods in the past and I saw resistance, conflict and bickering. Such negativity made me less excited to work with the neighborhoods and less passionate about the projects. In the case of Reid Park, I was hooked on the idea and the project from the first moment and I feel that I have established lasting relationships with many of the residents. Having said that, it took me about 4-5 months of bi-weekly visits to the neighborhood before I felt a part of the neighborhood and less of an outsider. This makes community development work more difficult, in my opinion. The time that is needed to be deeply involved is more than many professionals can spend. Likewise, the time required of residents is well above and beyond a 40 hour work week. When some residents are working two jobs to make ends meet, how can we expect them to attend evening meetings or be further involved in their community?
~ 50 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning Such a perplexing scenario exists in many neighborhoods especially those that need community building services.
Literature Review The nature of this project was essentially exploring participatory design processes in the Reid Park community. We used these processes to plan, design and implement a new neighborhood park. As such, I have reviewed literature here that discusses community design, participatory planning, the benefits of public green space and the current condition of the network of parks in the Charlotte area.
Community Design Community design is increasingly popular in the fields of architecture, urban design and planning. New approaches in the fields with old roots, like new urbanism and sustainability are pushing practitioners toward community design, but many are using the term as a catch phrase. Some have criticized community design practices for their lack of following the original principles, like using a voluntary organizational structure to advocate for politically disadvantaged and low-income groups (Toker 2007). In the 1960s, community design was an alternative style of practice that was based on the idea that professional knowledge without moral or political content is inadequate. It has often been identified as a movement that sought to discover how to make it possible for people to be involved in shaping their own environments. Community-based struggles in the United States during the 1960s spurred the Economic Opportunity Act in Community Action Agencies in
~ 51 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning 1964. The federal stimulus of the Office of Neighborhood Development energized the role of grassroots organizations in neighborhood economic development. Ultimately, community design arose from the response by the federal government to social unrest; new legislation at the time paved the way for citizen involvement in decision-making processes (Sanoff 2000). Planners and designers began to convene at community design centers that were emerging in the US, having been influenced by Davidoffâ€™s advocacy planning model. They questioned conventional practices in their professions, fought urban renewal, advocated for the rights of low-income and minority groups and provided design and planning services to community groups. While these centers and practitioners operated on an idealistic level in the early stages of the movement, the economic changes in the US during the 1980s and cuts in political funding forced these centers and practitioners to operate as entrepreneurs (Sanoff 2000). This duality in the history of community design could be one reason for the range in methods and definitions of the practice in recent times. The term â€œcommunity designâ€? has been seen as an umbrella word for participatory design, social architecture, community development and social design among many others. But, Toker suggested that the term and practice has drastically changed since the 1960s and is evermore departed from its origins. Practitioners are using the term community design to draw attention to their work without truly engaging in the basic tenet of community design, making it possible for people to be truly engaged in designing their environment (Toker 2007).
~ 52 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning
Participation In addition to the range of definitions and perceptions of community design, there are various understandings of the involvement of professionals and are displayed in continuums in Figure 21. In Continuum 2, the “representation” stage through the “regionalism” stage are dominated by the professional’s interpretation of the user group. The “alternative” stage through the “selfdecision” stage are dominated by the user.
Figure 21 - Continuums of involvement by the professional and the citizen - Source: Toker, 311
In the case of my involvement with Reid Park, Continuum 2 in the figure most represents my involvement. CHARP and the Reid Park Neighborhood Association had already completed the first few stages of the continuum before I began to help. They identified the need for an expert and the first stage that I was involved in was “dialogue.” Toker described the “self-decision” end of the continuum as one in which the resident controls all of the design and construction processes. In my work with Reid Park, we operated more in the range between “dialogue” and “co-decision” while co-advocating throughout. Engaging in successful community design requires building a participatory democracy. A strong sense of community must be created or already in place in order for full participation to
~ 53 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning be possible from the neighborhood or user. In this case, residents are more likely to respond positively to solving community issues and to give their time and resources to better the community. The unique qualities of place can also be a driver for community participation. In some cases it can be the predecessor for a sense of community. Planners call this a “sense of place” and a strong sense of place is linked to active participation in communities. Mutual trust can be built through the act of community organizing and participation. Strong participation, sense of place, mutual trust and community organizing all come together to inform “social capital” in a community. This is a measure of social networks with indicators such as civic pride, engagement, leadership, volunteerism and capacity for cooperation (Sanoff 2010). Crawford et al. (2008) noted that some research has pointed to the trend in diminishing social ties in American society. The residents of Reid Park seemed to echo this concept, as one main tenet of their idea for a new central park had always been to increase social capital within the community by providing a central public location for coming together. Crawford et al. (2008) also noted that changing lifestyles and generational attitudes in the US have promoted individuality and independence. Differing social status may have an impact on social capital within communities. The authors reported that communities with a higher social status are more likely to be involved as they are more confident that they can influence policy and affect change. Whereas low-income communities are more likely to create a high level of bonding within their group, rather than bridging social capital outside the community when they feel excluded from decision-making processes (Crawford et al., 2008).
~ 54 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning In Reid Park, many of these factors were already in place when I began working with the neighborhood. While not evident throughout the neighborhoodâ€™s entirety, a core group of 2550 residents exhibited these factors. The well-established neighborhood association, the history of CDC involvement and the trust among the core group were likely key factors in Reid Parkâ€™s willingness to participate in the planning and design processes to create their new park. In fact, according to Hou and Rios (2003), no other factors have been more responsible for growth and influence in communities in the recent history of American cities than CDCs and community-based organizations. The authors note that grassroots organizations have reshaped the public processes and institutional frameworks that are involved in the design and development of public space in our communities. This is true in the case of our project in Reid Park. The Parks & Rec department, upon accepting our master plan, stated that the work we had done at a grassroots level had meant that their organization could forego those steps and that we had saved them time, money and effort. Hou and Rios (2003) went on to note that the public realm in our communities is not only physical space, but an expression of relationships between multiple institutions and individuals, which makes the process of creating such spaces that much more important (Hou and Rios 20). Crucially, Hou and Rios (2003) pointed out fallacies in current participatory design models. They noted the wide variety of mechanisms currently used by community design professionals as ranging from computer simulation models, gaming exercises and design charrettes to visual preference surveys, focus groups and polling citizens. But, still the authors claimed that many community design professionals who use participatory methods express skepticism over those
~ 55 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning approaches. The authors confirmed the statements of Toker (2007) that such modern participatory practices are so mainstream and parochial that they no longer meet the goals set out at their origin in the civil rights spin offs from the 1960s. They further claimed that participatory practice is now more effective in defending exclusionary groups than it is promoting the public good. Given its firm position in mainstream private practice and institutional practice, participatory methods are often used to satisfy mandates rather than fully engaging citizens. Hou and Rios (2003) also noted that participatory practices have focused so much on the interaction between professionals and user groups that they have overlooked the broader social, cultural and political dynamics of the fluctuating processes. In fact, participatory processes may have bolstered institutional control over community design processes in modern times, rather than empowering the citizen (Hou and Rios 20).
Factors in Social Change Hou and Rios (2003) also presented an intriguing viewpoint on the emergence and development of social change. They identified three broad factors that make up modern social change movements: mobilization structure, political opportunity and cultural framing. Mobilization structure makes up the vehicles that people use to mobilize and engage in collective action. Reid Park had these in place at the outset of the project and even prior to my involvement (Table 1, p 20). The various functions and activities surrounding their neighborhood association promoted and facilitated mobilization. The involvement of outside non-profits also aided in community mobilization. The second factor, political opportunity, that Hou and Rios (2003) identified referred to the likelihood of community groups and citizens to
~ 56 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning be able to gain political power and to manipulate the system for their benefit. This was also the case in Reid Parkâ€™s efforts. After several meetings with various institutional organizations, we still didnâ€™t have a clear path identified on how to achieve our goals of a new central park in the neighborhood. But, leaders in Reid Park decided to go straight to the source, the county commissioner that represented their district. Parks and Rec officials ultimately report to the county commissioners in our local government and the commissioner was in a re-election year. It is my opinion that these factors influenced the commissioner to pressure Parks and Rec officials to move forward with the processes necessary to construct Reid Parkâ€™s vision for their new central park. By strategically reaching out to powerful entities, the Reid Park neighborhood leaders helped to create a condition where they gained political power and manipulated the system. Third, Hou and Rios (2003) identified cultural framing as an important factor in social movements (21). Early in the process of creating our vision plan, the Reid Park core design group identified compelling cultural and social benefits to the implementation of our vision. Such benefits related our vision to increased public health, safety and mental well-being in the community. We were sure to point out that seniors and children in the neighborhood were under severe pressures of stress and negative habits. Our vision plan framed this new park as a solution to cultural and social maladies in the community. That framing, in my opinion, was also a powerful driver that influenced officials to accept our plan and to move forward with it.
~ 57 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning
Modern Methods in Community Design One interesting approach to community work is called Asset Based Community Development (ABCD). It views citizens as capital and co-creators of their community. They identify, map and mobilize existing human, social and physical assets in their community. Residents begin to become empowered through this process and empowerment leads to the community being in control of its own affairs. Shared values, creating valuable roles for each member to play, reaching out to build inclusive participation and effectively bonding are often more important factors in community development than just solving issues (Sanoff 2010). Again, this was clearly evident to me in Reid Parkâ€™s core group of involved citizens. Passion for their neighborhood (place) and solid, caring relationships had been developing over the decades. Citizen participation is extremely valuable to community life. In general, the purpose of participation is to inform the public, get feedback on proposed actions and then to engage in problem solving to create a solution that works for everyone. Legitimacy is added to decisions when the process by which decisions were made is fair, open and democratic. Participants identify with some ownership in the process and projects are much more likely to succeed with participation from citizens (Sanoff 2010). The importance of participation has been established, but Lefevre et al. (2001) provided a comprehensive set of tools and guidelines that help participatory project management and evaluation. They called it the Comprehensive Participatory Planning Evaluation (CPPE). The authors noted that public participation from the beginning of a project helped to ensure that the perspective of those affected by the project would be heard. This resulted in greater stakeholder
~ 58 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning support and increased project success. Lefevre et al. recommended a four phased CPPE model for evaluating a participatory process very early in the initial stages. One of the most well-known and practiced models used in community design processes is that of the charrette. The French word “charrette” means “cart,” but the term applied to the collection of final drawings from art and architecture students. They would frantically be trying to complete their works before a deadline. The term now is used to identify a community design process that is also intense. The goal of a charrette is to bring decision makers, community members and designers together in one place in order to create a plan that works for everyone. As the National Charrette Institute (NCI) identifies it, the charrette process includes three major phases, the pre-charrette educational and preparation, the design charrette and the post charrette implementation. The first phase of getting charrette-ready can take 1-9 months, the actual design charrette is usually compressed into 4-7 days and the post-charrette phase of implementation can take an average of 2-4 months. In total, the entire process could take more than a year to complete (Lennertz et al 2001, 1). The first phase of a charrette process includes project set up, organization, identification of constraints and objectives, stakeholder identification and involvement, information gathering, feasibility studies and logistical planning. Stakeholders would have a shared understanding of the project at hand and individual roles. Information gathering would include a study of existing conditions and collection of relevant information that would help to inform the project. Public outreach would also occur in the first stage of the process and could involve several
~ 59 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning types of methods depending on the scale of the project. Charrettes are usually organized by a team of individuals that might be made up of community leaders, developers, planners, designers and public officials. Phase two of the process is the actual design charrette which is a very short, compressed process intentionally. The NCI claims that the pressure to complete the plan in a short period of time allows for more creativity, forces collaborative decision making and reduces unconstructive negotiation tactics. The design charrette has built in feedback loops. Day one would encompass information sharing in a hands-on workshop. Participants might draw their vision of what the planning area could look like and alternatives would begin to emerge. After a few days of drawing, the community residents are invited to see the conceptual work and to give input and critique. The process repeats in two more loops before the final designs and plans emerge (Lennertz et al 2001, 2). The design team prepares any and all documents that would be needed to move the project forward and become implemented. Charrettes are typically initiated by public agencies or developers. The implementation process is mostly successful due to the fact that stakeholder buy in occurs early in the first stages of the process. Charrettes could cost between $75,000 and $250,000 and the model is set up more for large scale development projects (Lennertz et al 3). Cinderby (2009) discussed Participatory Geographic Information Systems (P-GIS) research that was inspired by the common shortcomings of modern participatory efforts. The author noted that planners and policymakers often fail to engage large segments of communities and these groups are referred to as the â€˜hard-to-reachâ€™ in professional circles. The fact that a term has been coined to describe this phenomenon certainly adds strength to the literature claiming that
~ 60 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning modern participatory methods are failing to accomplish their originally wholesome, moral goals of egalitarian engagement. Cinderby (2009) completed his research in the UK where the government has an overall development policy and agenda. In many locales, a land owner cannot simply develop his/her land as they please, but their plans must fall in line with the local government’s adopted development plans. The author describes a movement in the UK among local authorities in which they are realizing the importance of public open space as a component of the modern livable city. They are also realizing that many existing public open spaces have been designed and built in high income communities and/or to cater to the affluent citizen. As such, they use participatory planning to design and build more open spaces that prioritize social equity and inclusion. Cinderby (2009) describes the use of P-GIS techniques that are able to rapidly assess local concerns, design ideas and knowledge and integrate them into the process. The author makes a key observation in that identifying a ‘hard-to-reach’ group and labeling them as such could be extremely divisive and disruptive to the success of engaging a community. But, Cinderby (2009) noted that such groups consistently included: •
Minority ethnic groups
Immigrant populations including undocumented individuals
Citizens with disabilities
Children and seniors
Low-income and disadvantaged groups (239).
The author used participatory mapping as one exercise to help locate citizens within their community and to map key components, assets and locations in their neighborhoods. The
~ 61 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning author also notes that visual maps and graphics are more legible and interactive than questionnaires or surveys. Additionally, maps and visual exercises tend to remove the opportunity for verbal domination that can occur in community meetings. Cinderby (2009) also noted that maps are generally legible among all segments of populations, young to old, with a bit of guidance from facilitators, with the exception of the visually impaired (240). While P-GIS methods were demonstrated to be successful in reaching the ‘hard-to-reach,’ the author noted a drawback. Participatory methods require the user to invest time, to physically appear at events/meetings, and to become actively involved in decision-making processes. These all can be very difficult for residents of low-income, education and resources. This demographic of citizen may be working two jobs in order to make ends meet and allowing time in their daily lives to become involved in the community may be near impossible. P-GIS techniques can be more easily accessible online, but again, this brings other barriers into the process such as the need for the technological ability of the user, software and access to the internet (Cinderby 241). Ultimately, the author stated that significant success was achieved through on-the-ground interaction with citizens. Cinderby’s 2009 research was conducted in more dense urban settings, so interaction with the study group was likely. In less dense residential settings, this tactic could prove less successful in my opinion. But, the author noted the importance of all facilitators having a structured set of questions in order to gather consistent data from participants. The author also noted that the availability of P-GIS was extremely helpful in digitizing the geographic location of comments, impressions or activities that impacted citizens’ view of their communities (246). In my opinion, the use of GIS software would be much more
~ 62 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning helpful with the continuous addition of more and more data. With very little data in a small community, the technological advantages of GIS may be more costly and time intensive than they are worth. Another interesting approach to participatory planning and design is called casewise visual evaluation (CAVE). This method is a fuzzy-logic based non-linear visual preference modeling system. It is designed to provide guidance in decisions on design elements through composite visual scenarios. Bailey et al (2007) used electronic polling in low-income communities where residents scored a small set of images for preference. The authors used fuzzy set theory based software to build a community preference knowledge base. This knowledge base was used to inform planning and design professionals of the desires of the communities affected by a proposed new transit-oriented development in Louisville, Kentucky (Bailey et al 2007, 234). The authors pointed out a key fallacy of modern visual preference surveys. Professionals use images to demonstrate potential design elements to the public. But, often those images form a marketing campaign to convince the public that elements recommended by the professionals are the best option, rather than the professionals responding and making recommendations based on the public opinion. Many public meetings and charrettes that I have witnessed indeed use the prior method. The authors give terminologies to these two methods: ‘visual simulation’ and ‘visual assessment’ respectively (Bailey et al 237). Bailey et al (2007) used the CAVE model to organize and define public input concerning details of the proposed TOD development at the block level. Rather than focusing on very detailed design features like materials, façade elements and textures, the design team selected images to
~ 63 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning use that reflected massing, density and open space typologies. First, designers (architects) selected images they deemed appropriate to represent they various typologies. Citizen groups were used for assistance selecting the images. The designers then selected appropriate vocabulary to attach to the images that they deemed would be most comprehended by the public. The images were then shown to the public in an iterative process and scored in a range of least preferred to most preferred. The design team was interested in how the public would perceive different density types as they were related to parking and open space. Initially, the public was very concerned with increased traffic and congestion as it related to higher density typologies. The design team then began to show images of higher density typologies with images of parking solutions and the public responded with much less concern. Additionally, the design team found that open space characteristics heavily affected the public preference of development typologies (Bailey et al 247). While this system seemed to be very effective in taking large numbers of public scoring and analyzing how one element affected another element, (i.e. how an open space typology affected the public perception of a density typology) the authors stated that the public needed further clarity in many cases and the complexity of the CAVE model was easily confusing. But, the authors felt that the project succeeded in generating useful design preference guidance from limited input information. Additionally, they felt that the project succeeded in making the public feel the professionals were responding to them rather than the reverse (Bailey et al 251).
~ 64 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning
The Benefits of Open Green Space Urban open spaces have long been known to be important to the quality of life of humans living in cities. Since the early 1800s, the value of urban open spaces has been recognized, as they were used to provide reprieve and recovery from city congestion and pollution (Garvin 2011). However, interest in and concern for the quantity and quality of urban open spaces has been renewed over the past decade due to several factors, most notably: â€˘
Widespread concern for decline in quantity and quality of urban green spaces due to their low priority on political agendas at local and national levels;
Growing emphasis on urban population increases and infill development are raising concerns as to the role of green space in this new reality;
Increased recognition and importance for green space, which is supported by growing and improved evidence of its vast environmental, economic and social impacts (Swanwick et al. 2003).
A huge variety of human actions creates a wide range of ecological conditions and some unique and new urban environments. Biodiversity in cities may even be high (Pickett et al. 2008). Cities have been the habitat for humans and the wilderness has been the habitat for flora and fauna. The view that we must protect nature from people is being further dissected by urban ecologists many of whom suggest that urbanity and ecological health go hand in hand when developing with resilience and sustainability (Niemela et al. 2011). Niemela et al (2011) suggest that an ecosystem approach to urban planning, which includes equitable access to ecosystem services and planning at the relevant scale is the key to sustainable cities of the future. The authors continue with the idea that this will not only serve cities, but it will redefine our
~ 65 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning relationship with nature, ecosystems and biodiversity by making the infallible connection between these resources and our survival as a species more evident.
Defining Green Space Swanwick et al. (2003) suggest that the terms open space and green space are used interchangeably. Clear definitions and distinctions between them are needed in order to avoid confusion. Their definition suggests that urban areas are made up of the built environment and the external environment between buildings. They further define the external environment as two distinct spaces: ‘greyspace’ and ‘greenspace’. Grey space is land that consists of predominantly sealed, impermeable, ‘hard’ surfaces such as concrete or tarmac. Green space land, whether publicly or privately owned, consists of predominantly unsealed, permeable, ‘soft’ surfaces such as soil, grass, shrubs, trees and water. Swanwick et al. (2003) acknowledged that the juxtaposition of green and grey spaces is essential in towns and cities.
Economic Impacts Walkable neighborhoods, parks and open spaces also are believed to generate economic benefits to local governments, home owners and businesses through higher property values and correspondingly higher tax assessments. The economic benefits of open, walkable spaces can play an important role in policy-makers’ decisions about zoning, restrictions on land-uses, government purchase of lands for parks and similar initiatives (Shoup and Ewing 2010). A study done in 2010 by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and San Diego State University
~ 66 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning evaluated the economic benefits of open space, recreation facilities and walkable community design. The study found five key results: •
Open spaces such as parks and recreation areas can have a positive effect on nearby residential property values, and can lead to proportionately higher property tax revenues for local governments.
The economic impact parks and recreational areas have on home prices is dependent on the proximity of the home to the open space, the size of the open space and the characteristics of the surrounding neighborhood.
Urban open space will increase the level of economic benefits to surrounding property owners more than rural open space.
Open space, recreation areas and compact developments may provide fiscal benefits to municipal governments (Shoup and Ewing 2010).
Several studies have been done around the United States, which analyze property values affected by nearby open spaces. Two such studies were conducted in 2000 and 2001 analyzed the same set of more than 16,400 home sales in Portland, Ore., using two different methods. The first method found that the 193 public parks analyzed had a significant, positive impact on nearby property values. When a park was located within 1,500 feet of a home, the home’s sale price increased by between $845 and $2,262 (in 2000 dollars). Additionally, as parks increased in size, their impact on property value increased significantly (Bolitzer and Netusil 2000). The second study found that large natural forest areas had a greater positive impact on nearby property prices than other smaller open spaces did such as, small urban parks, specialty parks such as playgrounds or skate parks, and golf courses. Homes located within 1,500 feet of natural forest areas enjoyed statistically significant property premiums, an average of $10,648, compared to $1,214 for urban parks, $5,657 for specialty parks and $8,849 for golf courses (in
~ 67 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning 1990 dollars) (Lutzenhiser and Netusil 2001). But, negative impacts can be seen on surrounding property values if open spaces are not properly maintained. This factor has also been seen to be a major influence on whether people use the space or not. One study in Greenville, SC showed that attractively maintained parks had a positive impact on surrounding property values and such parks that were not improved or maintained had a similar negative impact on values (Epsey and Owusu-Edusei 2001). Local leaders must understand the intricacies and impacts of open space implementation fully in order to maximize its potential economic gains. The level of property tax revenues associated with open space will depend on the built environment surrounding the green space. Studies show that parks surrounded by roads are substantially more valuable to the public than are parks surrounded by private lots. In Austin, TX, a 7.9 mile greenbelt provided incremental tax base increases from properties adjacent which were only 28.4 percent of the cost to purchase the open space. This gap in revenues resulted from the fact that substantial sections of the greenbelt had no adjacent private properties (Crompton and Nicholls 2006). Tzoulas et al. (2007) looked at the effects of green infrastructure on human health and ecological health together and noted that the loss and degradation of urban and peri-urban green space could adversely affect ecosystems as well as human health and well-being. The authors defined green infrastructure as â€œconsidered to comprise of all natural, semi-natural and artificial networks of multifunctional ecological systems within, around and between urban areas, at all spatial scales (Tzoulas et al. 169).â€? Their research found that proactive planning, development and maintenance of a green infrastructure has the potential to guide urban development by
~ 68 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning providing a framework for economic growth and nature conservation. They continued noting the importance of ecological networks that are connected, rather than fragmented and diverse with species rather than monocultures. The link between ecosystem health and human health is conveyed with the term “ecosystem services,” which are provided by green infrastructure. The term “ecosystem service” refers to the delivery, provision, protection or maintenance of goods and benefits that humans obtain from ecosystem functions (Tzoulas et al. 170). Municipalities can also see increased economic value from green space in the area of ecosystem services. Gomez-Baggethun and Barton (2012) classified and valued ecosystem services delivered in urban areas to support decision-making, e.g. by reshaping municipal budgets and guiding land-use planning. They suggested that more research be done on social and cultural values of ecosystem services and that consistent integration of that information into municipal governance is needed.
Social Impacts Health benefits of open spaces can be a significant economic benefit to individuals and municipalities through reduced costs of healthcare services. The World Health Organization defines human health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” (WHO, 1948). This definition implies that to fully understand and describe the concept of health a wide array of related factors ought to be considered including, amongst others, biological, psychological and social. In 2000, 15.3% of children from 6-11 years of age and 15.5% of adolescents from12-19 years of age in the United States were overweight. These numbers are triple those from two decade earlier (CDC 2002).
~ 69 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning The Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health estimate direct and indirect costs of obesity at $117 Billion per year to the United States (Wolf, Manson and Colditz 2002). It is widely accepted that the being physically active is directly related to community design and the availability of open space. Living close to parks and other recreation facilities also is consistently related to higher physical activity levels for both adults and youth (Sallis and Kerr 2006). Adolescents with easy access to multiple recreation facilities were both more physically active and less likely to be overweight and obese than were adolescents without access to such facilities, according to one national study (Gordon-Larsen et al. 2006). The Institute of Medicine has stated that improving the walkability of neighborhoods and increasing access to recreation facilities are essential strategies for preventing childhood obesity. Natural environments have been shown to have powerful metaphysical and psychological effects on humans versus urban environments. Ulrichâ€™s studies in 1984 demonstrated that patients whose windows faced a park recovered faster compared with patients whose windows faced a brick wall. Following that, several studies have demonstrated restorative effects of natural compared with urban environments; these effects include increased well-being, decreased negative affect and decreased physiological stress responses (Ulrich 1984). Later studies by Ulrich suggested that natural environments have restorative effects by inducing positive emotional states, decreased physiological activity and sustained attention. Furthermore, the added benefit of audio therapy was noticed by Ulrich. Patients who viewed videos of nature accompanied with sound recovered faster from physiological stress than did
~ 70 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning those viewing and hearing urban environments (Ulrich 1991). Alvarsson et al. (2010) conducted further research that corroborated Ulrichâ€™s findings while controlling for various other factors. Takano et al. (2002) studied the longevity of senior citizens and how it was impacted by proximity to and use of urban green spaces. They found that the probability of five year survival of the senior citizens studied increased in accordance with the space for taking a stroll near the residence (p<0.01), parks and tree lined streets near the residence (p<0.05), and their preference to continue to live in their current community (p<0.01). Takano et al. (2002) identified two environment related factors: the factor of walkable green streets and spaces near the residence and the factor of a positive attitude to a person's own community. After they controlled for effects of the residents' age, sex, marital status, and socioeconomic status, the factor of walkable green streets and spaces near the residence showed high predictive value for the survival of senior citizens over the five years following the study. They concluded that living in areas with walkable green spaces positively influenced the longevity of urban senior citizens independent of their age, sex, marital status, baseline functional status, and socioeconomic status. They recommended that greenery filled public areas that are nearby and easy to walk in should be further emphasized in urban planning (Takano et al. 2002).
Equality of Access to Open Space Equality of access is a crucial part of providing public services, as it is in the design and provision of public open spaces. Low, Taplin and Scheld (2005) point out in Rethinking Urban Parks that not all cultures or segments of the population value open spaces in the same way. If
~ 71 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning planners and elected leaders are indeed experiencing a renewed interest in studying and providing more urban open spaces, Low, Taplin and Scheld (2005) suggest that more research be done into the unique cultural and demographic desires of all segments of the population when discussing the provision and design of public open space. They also note that we are not only facing a threat to public space in the form of disuse, but in the form of cultural and racial exclusion (Low, Taplin and Scheld 1). Figure 22 shows the results of a complex rapid ethnographic assessment process (REAP) study of Independence National Historic Park that uncovered the erased histories of various ethnic groups living in Philadelphia. The study tells the story of how planning and design of the park unintentionally disrupted the cultural attachments of neighboring groups over time and excluded new immigrants.
Biophilia and Nature Deficit Disorder The Reid Park community identified early in the process that this potential park could be a major factor in the physical and mental health of their residents. They specifically honed in on a term I introduced to them called ‘biophilia.’ This term was coined by Harvard scientist and author Edward O. Wilson in the 1980s. He defined it as “the urge to affiliate with other forms of life (Louv, 43).” He further argued more specifically that humans have an innate affinity to the natural world, even a biological need that is integral to our development. Richard Louv writes extensively about this and related topics in his 2008 book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving our children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. He reports that a growing circle of researchers believes that the loss of natural habitat and the disconnection from nature has drastic impacts on human
~ 72 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning health and child development. It is increasingly believed that the quality of our exposure to nature directly affects our health at a cellular level (Louv 43).
Figure 22 â€“ (Low, Taplin and Scheld 171)
~ 73 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning Furthermore, it is widely known that as humans have evolved over thousands of years, we have lived in and amongst nature. The design of our first settlements, and later our cities, has focused on separating civil life from the wild natural world in the interest of safety. But, it is only in the last hundred years that we have begun to live exclusively indoors and isolated from nature. With the advent of air conditioning in the early 1900s, along with subsequent technological comforts that followed, humans have become ever more separated from nature. Some researchers believe that this has directly affected child development and humansâ€™ overall mental and physical health in an array of negative ways. Recent studies in northern Europe relate time spent in natural settings to mental and physical health benefits. Groups of preschool children were compared; one that played every day on typical, flat playgrounds and one group that played for the same amount of time in more natural play areas with rocks, uneven earth and trees. After the one year study, the children who played in natural areas tested much better for motor fitness, balance and agility than did the group that had played on the flat playground. Similarly, adults have been tested in England and Sweden. Joggers who exercised in natural settings with views of trees and landscapes felt more restored, less anxious, angry and depressed than did those who burnt the same amount of calories in a gym or other indoor setting (Louv 48-49). Specifically in reference to childrenâ€™s emotional health, with more sedentary lifestyles, kids get depressed. The natural world is often overlooked as an emotionally healing component. A 2003 survey published in the journal Psychiatric Services reported that the rate at which children were being prescribed anti-depressants almost doubled in five years and the most drastic
~ 74 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning increase had been a 66% increase in preschool children (Louv 49). Although many factors could have been at the source of the increase reported in the journal, the fact remains that such a drastic increase is a signal, a red flag. New research suggests that children’s need for such medication is exacerbated with the disconnection from nature. A study conducted by Cornell reported in 2003 that “life’s stressful events appear not to cause as much psychological distress in children who live in high-nature conditions compared with children who live in low-nature conditions…And the protective impact of nearby nature is strongest for the most vulnerable children – those experiencing the highest levels of stressful life events (Louv 50-51).”
In fact, Louv has coined the term “nature-deficit disorder,” which is not a medical term, but one that he feels most accurately represents the information he has witnesses through years of research. After interviewing over 3000 children and parents across the United States, Louv reported hearing some disturbing comments repeatedly during his interviews. Children made statements like, “I like to play indoors better, ‘cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are.” Parents remembered when they were growing up and remarked, “we were always outdoors” and “our parents were outdoors…sitting on the porch, talking to neighbors (Louv 10-11).” In his 1999 book, The human relationship with nature: Development and culture, Peter Kahn expounds on hundreds of studies that he conducted in academia that uncovered key insights into E.O. Wilson’s hypothesis of biophilia. One important point that Kahn recalled of Wilson’s writings was that in order to investigate biophilia, one only has to study the landscapes that wealthy individuals choose to inhabit during vacation periods free from work. When people
~ 75 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning are free from economic and time constraints, they innately choose to inhabit natural landscapes. Kahn’s research found further support for biophilia when studying children who were extremely poor and living in inner city landscapes. Even living in deeply impoverished communities under heavy economic pressures, their diverse and rich appreciation for preserving the natural environment was still inherent (Kahn 114). But, the children that Kahn studied had developed a drastically different view of nature as well. Because of the social environment they lived in, they associated human violence to their natural surroundings. Even though the children had a moral sense to preserve nature, they were afraid of it. One thirdgrade girl Kahn interviewed had an interesting perspective on a bayou. In Houston, TX, where the research was conducted, a bayou is a term that refers to a small river or stream, perhaps in company with wetlands. An excerpt from Kahn’s interview with the third-grader follows. Tell me Trina, do you know what a bayou is? Yes…it’s where turtles live and the water is green because it is polluted…like some people go down there and pee in the water. Mm hmm. Like boys…and drunkers, they’ll go do that… Okay. And sometimes they’ll take people down there and rape them, and when they finished, they might throw ‘em in the water or something. So, what does it look like? How would you describe it? A bayou? It’s big and long and green and it stinks…And turtles live in it (Kahn 96).
~ 76 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning Trina definitely knew what a bayou was, but her immediate description included the perception (knowledge) of pollution. Very quickly, her description of the natural element reflected the perception of rape, violence and illicit behavior. I experienced a similar perception of nature from residents of Reid Park. Neighborhood leaders involved in the park planning knew and had been fighting for the opportunity to reconnect with their natural environment. But, some comments I heard from other residents expressed reservations when contemplating walking in a park in their neighborhood. Some were worried about safely walking and asked if there would be lighting. Others asked if there would be bushes, because they didn’t want them – “someone could jump out from behind a bush and get you.” Still other residents asked about mosquitos and animals; they were afraid of seeing certain animals. In some way, the views of the Reid Park residents proves a disassociation with the natural world has already occurred there, which seems to legitimize to some extent the neighborhood leaders’ plan to reconnect residents with nature through the implementation of a new neighborhood park.
The State of Charlotte’s Park System The Trust for Public Land (TPL) has reported that the entire city of Charlotte is in need of more parks and open space. Their ParkScore® index gave Charlotte a score that ranked it 47 out of 50 cities that were analyzed. The index analyzed “the three most important characteristics of an effective park system: acreage, services and investment and access (http://parkscore.tpl.org/methodology.php, accessed Oct. 27, 2013).” The ParkScore® analysis scores acreage by a city’s median park size and total park acres as a percentage of city area. The analysis recognizes the importance of destination parks that are large and visitors must drive to.
~ 77 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning Data for the analysis is gathered from park-owning agencies and from annual surveys conducted by the TPL. In the category of services and investment, the analysis scores city’s based on their playgrounds per resident and their spending per resident. Access is analyzed based on the percentage of the population living within a ten-minute walk of a public park. The TPL defines a ten-minute walk as a half-mile walk to a public park entrance where the entire walk is within the public road network and uninterrupted by physical barriers such as walls, fences, rivers, train tracks and highways (http://parkscore.tpl.org/methodology.php, accessed Oct. 27, 2013). The map from TPL (Figure 23) shows Reid Park is in “high” need of additional park space. In fact, the analysis is skewed, because TPL has included the existing Amay James Park as a park that is serving the area, but that is not accurate. The existing Amay James Park is no more than thick woods. Were that land not considered a park in this analysis, I expect that Reid Park would be in even greater need of new park space. Despite the report and analysis from TPL, Mecklenburg County Parks & Rec department’s 2012 annual report showed encouraging statistics about the department and its service to the community. The chairman of the Parks & Rec Commission stated that, in 2012, the department saw its highest customer satisfaction results, highest attendance and highest revenue ever recorded (Figure 24). The chairman went on to state that there is a collective challenge for Parks & Rec and the community to meet the increasing need for parks, recreation programs and the protection of our environment with limited funding.
~ 78 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning
Figure 22 - Analysis of the Need for Parks in Charlotte, NC - Source: Park Score速
The department is obviously concerned about the clear necessity to grow and maintain existing services with less funding moving into the future, according to the report. The annual report also states that the Parks & Rec department houses 210 parks and facilities on more than 19,300 acres of land. Those facilities and services range from athletic fields, to playgrounds, nature preserves, disc golf courses and dog parks (1-2).
~ 79 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning The report notes that Mecklenburg County Parks & Rec department was awarded the 2012 National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) Gold Medal. The award goes to communities that demonstrate excellence in parks and recreation through long-range planning, resource management, volunteerism, environmental stewardship, program development, professional development and agency recognition. The department competed nationally with communities of 250,000 residents and above (5).
Figure 23 - Parks & Rec 2012 Community Survey Results - Source: Parks & Rec 2012 Annual Report
According to the report, Parks and Rec saw increases in participation in almost every category of facility in 2012, most notably, a 48% increase in the division of natural resources/nature
~ 80 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning preserves (9). The report also showed a significant increase in the amount of new land purchased in 2012, especially land to be used for parks and nature preserves. In 2011, the department purchased about 28 acres of land for parks and 11 for nature preserves. In 2012, those numbers climbed to 293 acres and 115 acres respectively. The report states that this is consistent with the plans set out in the 2008 Parks & Rec master plan. In 2007, the department managed 17,753 acres, but the goal has been set to manage over 30,000 acres by 2018. The 2012 report states total management acreage at more than 19,300 acres, only having increased about 2,000 acres in five years from 2007 to 2012. The department must multiply that growth by a factor of 6 in order to reach its goal of more than 30,000 acres by 2018 (11).
Lessons Learned The Culture of Participation Participation in Reid Park was ultimately divided during my experience in the neighborhood. A core group of residents attended almost every event and/or meeting, while a separate group of approximately 20 residents attended every neighborhood association meeting, but no other events. I did not see many new faces throughout my experience, which leads me to believe that the neighborhood has three classes of involvement, the most involved, those who only attend the neighborhood meeting and those who attend nothing. Those three groups seemed to remain consistent throughout my experience, which tells me that there is stability of sorts, but also that the neighborhood has a large group of residents that are not involved at all in
~ 81 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning attending either the neighborhood association monthly meetings or other events organized by the neighborhood association. It seems to me that the core group of residents who are most involved in Reid Park have a keen understanding of the positive impacts of community involvement. They know the processes of community meetings, local politics and the processes that are necessary to get public resources allocated to their community. The group of residents that attends the neighborhood meetings regularly, but little else, is devoted to improving the community, but may have little understanding of how to help to accomplish that. Perhaps they have an understanding of how, but have little time to participate. The core group clearly wishes for more residents to become involved in leadership roles within the community and neighborhood association. They also desire more attendance at neighborhood meetings and more overall community involvement among residents. In order to encourage additional participation among residents who currently attend neighborhood meetings, perhaps the neighborhood association could alter the way in which it conducts meetings and the location of the meetings. The Reid Park Neighborhood Association currently meets at a church within the neighborhood which is small and barely accommodates current attendance levels. First, holding the meetings at a place of religious context could discourage a segment of the community from attending. There may be residents who are not comfortable entering a religious institution that is different from their own. Additionally, the current location is at capacity. A larger venue could allow for higher attendance and a wider variation of activities. The seating arrangement inside the current venue is arranged in two
~ 82 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning groups of rows with a center travel aisle, much like traditional Christian churches. Attendants come in the back of the room and are facing the front when they are seated. Speakers at the meetings stand at the front of the room and deliver information to the attendants. If the seating were arranged in a round table style, versus its current theater style arrangement, perhaps that could encourage more open participation from attendants.
The Power of Politics It is worth noting the influence of political power on this process, as it had both negative and positive impacts. For much of the project timeline, I was meeting with stakeholders in public office that we had identified in our core group design meetings. That list included officials in the offices of local DOT, Parks & Rec, Planning, Neighborhood and Business Services, City Council and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools among others. At that point in the timeline, we were only attempting to compile an action plan which the neighborhood association could use to follow up on the park master plan in order to attempt implementation of a new park. Public officials were very quick to respond to my requests to meet and seemed eager to hear about our project and how they could help. But, each meeting left me with still many unanswered questions, with the exception of the local DOT. They had a very clear set of procedures that any neighborhood needed to follow in order to achieve streetscape improvements. The processes were outlined and necessary forms were somewhat easily accessible online or in hard copy form. But, when I asked Parks & Rec officials how a neighborhood might go about attempting to request a new park, I didnâ€™t receive clear answers. There was no clear process outlined which any neighborhood could follow in order to request a new park, nor was there a standard
~ 83 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning precedent that we could follow. I asked Parks & Rec officials if there was another project similar to ours that we could follow and the response was that every project was different, everyone had a different ambassador to spearhead the effort and every project was handled differently within the department itself. This was discouraging and somewhat unbelievable. But, everything changed when we began discussing the project with our representative county commissioner Vilma Leake. She was instrumental in helping to arrange a meeting with the director of Parks & Rec within a few weeks of her first learning of our project and viewing the master plan that we had generated. Ultimately, Parks & Rec officials somewhat report to the county commission. At the meeting with the commissioner and Parks & Rec officials, we showed our master plan and the commissioner asked questions of Parks & Rec that prodded into how long it could take to be completed, if there was money in the budget to complete the park and how Parks & Rec might go about implementing the plan that we had drawn up. This line of questioning seemed to put Parks & Rec into a position where they could not deny our request. Funding had already been approved for some sort of new park in Reid Park, but no specific plans had been set within the Parks & Rec department as to the size and program of such a park. During the meeting, the director of Parks & Rec simply accepted our plan and outlined a very general set of tasks that would need to be completed in order to build the park. Still, at this point, no specific and transparent process was apparent. We knew that the park was no longer of low priority to the Parks & Rec department and that they would begin work on it, but the only other clear item that we understood was that there would be a series of community meetings with Parks & Rec officials that would discuss further design elements, budget and timelines of the construction of the new park.
~ 84 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning Despite the lack of clarity, I believe that without the county commissionerâ€™s support, and domination of the meeting, we would likely have been told that the plan was a nice idea, but it was of low priority in the current budget. This (2013) was not an election year for the commissioner, but 2014 will be. The park is scheduled to be nearing completion toward the end of 2014, which Iâ€™m sure the commissioner is aware of. Regardless, we learned that it is of utmost importance to understand local politicians and the climate they are embedded in if any neighborhood group seeks to request money and resources to be directed toward their community, especially if the request is out of line with the approved budget and projects.
The Power of a Plan I believe that Reid Park, after decades of campaigning for a new park, knew that they needed a physical drawing of their ideas, the concept, in order to realize the dream and for it to meet their ideas and standards of what a new park should be. During my work with the neighborhood, I saw the power of having an illustration of our ideas to show others. While we had been describing our ideas with words previously, we saw much more efficient delivery of our concepts with an illustrated plan. The drawings became things that people could gather around, point to and discuss. The introduction of the illustration to our process elevated the project to another level. Stakeholders could easily understand our vision and get behind it once we showed them the illustration. The illustrated master plan also gave the community of Reid Park a sense of power in the process. Typically, a community group with very little funding does not have access to a professionally produced master plan. We produced the plan with participation and input from
~ 85 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning the entire community. This gave additional power to the community, because we had followed the processes required by the Parks & Rec department. We had done our due diligence during our planning and it was difficult for critics to find discrepancies in our plan. This further strengthened the likelihood that it could be implementable. Parks & Rec typically produces such plans for a neighborhood while working with them, but also controlling and guiding the process. In our case, we had already completed a plan of our own, without the guidance of Parks & Rec, which gave Reid Park more control of the process and ultimately more power.
Why this project? Why Reid Park? The Economic impacts of greenspace literature review in this paper suggests a likely increase in property values in Reid Park if the park is well-designed, easily accessible and well-maintained. With still several vacant lots in the neighborhood, the park could attract new single family home development in Reid Park to fill those lots. Vacant homes that are difficult to rent could become more in demand with the benefits of a new park attracting prospective renters to the area. Home owners may be more likely to update and improve the facades of their homes with a nice, new park in their neighborhood. Absentee landlords may decide to put more attention and capital into their properties. New businesses could be attracted to the nearby commercial corridor of West Blvd if additional residents are attracted to Reid Park by the new neighborhood park. While the park will transform a blighted wooded area in the neighborhood that is a barrier to connectivity and supports negative activities, the new greenway and park will provide additional connectivity to the entire West Blvd corridor of some 16 neighborhoods. With those
~ 86 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning neighborhoods currently operating as separate entities, the West Blvd Neighborhood Coalition would have an additional, sizeable, physical connective element linking all of the neighborhoods together.
Conclusion Community design grew up in the 1960s with very wholesome beginnings. Those intentions are still at heart in the methods and backbone of community design and planning, but literature reviewed here and my own personal experiences on charrette shows that the discipline has strayed from those noble roots considerably in some cases. However, there seems to be an awakening in the field and related fields that closely resembles the grassroots, humble character of the original 1960s model. Activists and citizens are taking matters into their own hands to begin a range of community activities from streetscape improvements to community gardens. While planning its new park, the Reid Park community keyed into planning concepts focused on bringing back a focus on the natural environment. They are planning to do that through experience and physical contact provided by the park and greenway. The residents believe strongly that access to the natural environment will heal them and that it will positively affect the growth and development of their children. Reid Park has been increasing its civic involvement for almost 3 decades. There is an energy there that seems to be moving the neighborhood forward in a very organic and un-programmed way. The success of the plan for the central neighborhood park is likely only the beginning of what I believe could be a string of events, projects and shifts in attitude that will certainly have a massive impact on the social, economic and environmental qualities of the neighborhood.
~ 87 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning But, why did this effort have to come from the residents of Reid Park, why not the City of Charlotte? I would submit that Charlotte has grown so quickly and extended its geographic boundaries so rapidly that it cannot fulfill the expectations and needs of every neighborhood in the timeframe that is needed. So, you get what happened in Reid Park; planning that recommended improvements in the neighborhood, only some of which were completed, then little to no municipal planning work in the community for at least 3 decades. How often should we expect a municipality to be engaged in neighborhood improvement? Cities must spread their work equally throughout their territory, right? But, what about neighborhoods that are in worse condition or dangerously struggling? Should they be placed in priority? These questions may be impossible to answer and are a reflection of the constant struggle within local governments and planning departments to define the common good and to serve the population equally. How much should we expect communities to be involved in their own planning and development? I donâ€™t know the answer to that, but clearly, Reid Park is doing far more than it should have to. There is no reason that citizens should have to take on the equivalent hours of another full or part-time job in order to better their community through involvement. Imagine doing that in your own neighborhood. Your work week suddenly grows from 40 hours to 60 by adding 20 volunteer hours in your community. Even worse, those neighborhoods that are often in most need of community development work may be the least able to do it themselves. They are likely lower-income, have constricted resources and may have higher percentages of renters that could be less likely to be involved in neighborhood engagement.
~ 88 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning Perhaps we expect too much from municipalities and planners. Maybe citizens need to become more involved in their communities to the point that it is the norm, not the exception and not only done when residents are upset with the state of their neighborhoods. If this were the case, then community design and planning would be a necessity to the point that professionals could never deliver the amount of help that would be required. The demand would surpass the supply and I believe it already has. There would be, and I argue that there is, a need for citizens to learn how to plan and design their own communities. I am not recommending that this is done to the extent that there will no longer be a need for professionals in the field, but that everyday citizens gain a reasonable grasp of the concepts and techniques so that they can share some of the work load. After decades of planning and building our cities to accommodate the automobile and a clear, strong modern movement to plan and shape our cities to be more walkable, bikeable and rich with public transportation options, there is much work to be done to re-build our environments. Community planning and design are perfect tools for this and Reid Park has demonstrated how it can be accomplished with little resources and lots of participation.
~ 89 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning
Alvarsson J.J., Wiens S., Nilsson M.E. Stress Recovery during Exposure to Nature Sound and Environmental Noise. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2010; 7(3):1036-1046. Bailey, Keiron, Ted Grossardt, and Michaele Pride-Wells. "Community design of a light rail transit-oriented development using casewise visual evaluation (CAVE)." Socio-Economic Planning Sciences 41.3 (2007): 235-254. Bolitzer B and Netusil N. “The Impact of Open Spaces on Property Values in Portland, Oregon.” Journal of Environmental Management, 59(3): 185–193, July 2000. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, Hispanic Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1982-84), and National Health Examination Survey (1963-65, 1966-70, 1971-74, 1976-80, 1988-94, 1999-2000). Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission. 1991. “ Reid Park Small Area Plan.” Charlotte, NC: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission. 1995. “ Reid Park Neighborhood Action Plan.” Charlotte, NC: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission. Cinderby, Steve. "How to reach the ‘hard‐to‐reach’: the development of Participatory Geographic Information Systems (P‐GIS) for inclusive urban design in UK cities." Area 42.2 (2010): 239-251. Crawford, Pat, et al. "Social capital development in participatory community planning and design." Town Planning Review 79.5 (2008): 533-554. Crompton, J., and Sarah Nicholls. "An assessment of tax revenues generated by homes proximate to a greenway." Journal of Park and Recreation Administration 24.3 (2006): 103108. Espey M and Owusu-Edusei K. “Neighborhood Parks and Residential Property Values in Greenville, South Carolina.” Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics, 33(3): 487– 492, December 2001. Garvin, A., & Brands, R. (2011). Public parks: The key to livable communities. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.
~ 90 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning Gómez-Baggethun, E., Barton, D. Classifying and valuing ecosystem services for urban planning, Ecological Economics, Available online 30 October 2012, ISSN 0921-8009, 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2012.08.019. Gordon–Larsen P, Nelson M, Page P, et al. 2006. “Inequality in the Built Environment Underlies Key Health Disparities in Physical Activity and Obesity.” Pediatrics, 117(2): 417–424, February. Hamdi, Nabeel, and Reinhard Goethert. Action planning for cities: a guide to community practice. Chichester, UK: John Wiley, 1997. Hill, Terry, and Roy Westbrook. "SWOT analysis: it's time for a product recall."Long range planning 30.1 (1997): 46-52. Hou, Jeffrey, and Michael Rios. "Community‐Driven Place Making." Journal of Architectural Education 57.1 (2003): 19-27. Kahn Jr, Peter H. The human relationship with nature: Development and culture. The MIT Press, 1999. Lefevre, P., et al. "Comprehensive participatory planning and evaluation (CPPE)." (2001). Louv, Richard. Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-deficit Disorder. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin of Chapel Hill, 2005. Print. Lennertz, Bill, Aarin Lutzenhiser, and Tamara Failor. "An introduction to charrettes." Planning Commissioner's Journal (2008): 1-3. Low, Setha M., Dana Taplin, and Suzanne Scheld. Rethinking Urban Parks: Public Space & Cultural Diversity. Austin: University of Texas, 2005. Print. Lutzenhiser M and Netusil N. “The Effect of Open Space on a Home’s Sale Price.” Contemporary Economic Policy, 19(3): 291–298, July 2001. Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department. 2012 Annual Report. Charlotte: Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation Department. 2012. Niemelä, Jari, et al., eds. Urban ecology: patterns, processes, and applications. Oxford University Press, 2011. "ParkScore." ParkScore. The Trust for Public Land, n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2013
~ 91 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning Pickett S, Cadenasso M, Wilson M, et al. 2008. Beyond urban legends: An emerging framework of urban ecology, as illustrated by the Baltimore Ecosystem Study. Bioscience [serial online]. n.d.; 58(2):139-150. Pryer, Artie. 2013. “Quality of Public Facilities and Socioeconomic Trajectories: An analysis of historical suburban developments in Charlotte, N.C.” MA Thesis, University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Pryer, Artie, Tara Bengle, and Oceal Ross. Charlotte Action Research Project, "Reid Park History Project." Last modified 2010. Sallis J and Kerr J. “Physical Activity and the Built Environment.” President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports Research Digest, 7(4): 1–8, December 2006. Sanoff, Henry. Community participation methods in design and planning. Wiley. com, 2000. Sanoff, Henry. "Multiple Views of Participatory Design." Focus: Journal of the City and Regional Planning Department 8.1 (2011): 7. Shoup L. and Ewing R. Economic Benefits of Open Space, Recreation Facilities and Walkable Community Design. A Research Synthesis. Princeton, NJ: Active Living Research, a National Program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; May 2010. Available from: www.activelivingresearch.org. “Streetview, Reid Park, Charlotte.” Map. Google Maps. Google, 1 November 2013. Web. 1 November 2013. “Streetview, Southside Park, Charlotte.” Map. Google Maps. Google, 1 November 2013. Web. 1 November 2013. Swanwick, C., Dunnett, N., Woolley, H., 2003. Nature, role and value of green spaces in towns and cities: an overview. Built Environment 29 (2), 94–106. Takano, Takehito, Keiko Nakamura, and Masafumi Watanabe. "Urban residential environments and senior citizens’ longevity in megacity areas: the importance of walkable green spaces." Journal of epidemiology and community health 56.12 (2002): 913-918. Toker, Zeynep. "Recent trends in community design: the eminence of participation." Design Studies 28.3 (2007): 309-323. Tzoulas K., Korpela K., Venn S., Yli-Pelkonen V., Kaźmierczak A., Niemela J., James P. 2007. Promoting ecosystem and human health in urban areas using Green Infrastructure: A
~ 92 ~
McKnight | Learning Participatory Planning literature review, Landscape and Urban Planning, Volume 81, Issue 3, 20 June 2007, Pages 167-178, ISSN 0169-2046, 10.1016/j.landurbplan.2007.02.001. Ulrich, R.S., 1984. View through a window may influence recovery from surgery. Science224, 420–421. Ulrich, R.S., Simons, R.F., Losito, B.D., Fiorito, E., Miles, M.A., Zelson, M., 1991. Stress recovery during exposure to natural and urban environments. Journal of Environmental Psychology 11, 201–230. "Virtual Charlotte, Charlotte GIS." Virtual Charlotte, Charlotte GIS. City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2013. WHO, 1948. Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization as adopted by the International Health Conference, New York, 19–22 June, 1946; signed on 22 July 1946 by the representatives of 61 States (Official Records of the World Health Organization, no. 2, p. 100) and entered into force on 7 April 1948. Williams, Patricia, Michael Lovaglio, Tara Bengle and Jessi Jariel. “Reid Park Community Workshop.” Charlotte Action Research Project. 2009. Wirth & Associates. 1996. Reid Park Illustrative Masterplan. Reid Park Community Development Corporation. Charlotte, NC. Wolf, AM, Manson JE, Colditz GA. The Economic Impact of Overweight, Obesity and Weight Loss. In: Eckel R, ed. Obesity: Mechanisms and Clinical Management. Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins; 2002.
~ 93 ~