This post, by guest blogger Augusta Prehn, is the eleventh in a month-long series on the impressive diversity of participatory decision-making tools that communities can use for land use plans, transportation plans, sustainability plans, or any other type of community plan. Our guest bloggers are covering the gamut, from low-tech to high-tech, web-based to tactile, art-based to those based on scenario planning tools, and more. We welcome your feedback and would love to hear about the participatory design strategies that you’ve found to be the most useful.
The Fairmount School Project
Fairmount Elementary School 3rd graders were City Planners for a day when they visited the City of Golden Planning Department. They learned the basics of the City Planning profession and tried their hands in organizing a city from scratch as a team of planners.
The Planning and Development Department works with citizens and businesses to ensure that land use complies with the City of Golden zoning and land use regulations. The department works through a Planning Commission of appointed citizens to further the goals of the comprehensive plan and to create more localized neighborhood plans that reflect the citizens’ values and priorities. Historically, the role of a Planning Department has been to handle development issues regarding land use, transportation, community facilities, urban design, and housing, as well as encouraging the separation of incompatible uses and the proper mixing of complementary uses.
For the Fairmount visit, 5 different classes visited and each class broke down into smaller groups of 4 or 5 and practiced collaboration and deliberation with one another over where to place businesses, housing and other town necessities and the reasons why. They practiced prioritization and found that forming consensus over a vision for the city can be a difficult task to pull together.
The students had creative ways of looking at the city as a blank slate. They named their towns, developed stories to support the towns’ history, and designed both neighborhoods and Main Streets with everyday civic buildings clustered. They went so far as to locate grocery stores and other necessities near housing for ease of access, water treatment plants near the river and industrial uses that might cause a nuisance farther away from residential uses.
Their take away was that civic discussions are the place to get involved. Local government may be the smallest form of government that we see, but it is the one that affects us most in our day to day lives; so becoming a part of the discussion is the key to a greater city!
The activity was a success and the kids really enjoyed themselves!
This post was contributed by Augusta Prehn, a City Planner with the City of Golden, Colorado.