A city parks department goes after funding to update a well-loved park. But in order to apply for various funding resources, they must have a plan – what the industry calls a master plan. A master plan determines community goals and aspirations in terms of community development. It can both express and regulate public policies on transportation, utilities, land use, recreation, and housing. But where to start? Landscape architects are one of the resources available to parks departments and other public entities, serving as a guide for the development of a master plan. One key tool that design teams utilize for information gathering is a series of public forums with the various stakeholders. Clients generally start the process with many ideas for the plan but need additional input to build a unified vision. This is where the public process comes in: engaging the community (including many user groups with varying needs) to collect an informed response of what everyday users would like to see in their public project.
The public process is important for a variety of reasons. It provides transparency to the public, allows time for feedback, airs concerns, and creates a sense of buy-in and ownership from the community. Feedback gathered from the process informs the design, allowing consultants and public entities to consider additional factors and unique insights. These ideas are potentially not evident solely through site observation and client direction, and all contribute to the overall vision. One challenge we often find in the information gathering stage is engaging a wide range of age groups and families, based on various schedules, comfortability with technology, and access to information. In order to overcome this, it is important to use a multi-faceted public input process, allowing the best range of feedback. Some of the techniques we use include public meetings, mailed surveys, online surveys, voting boards, comment cards, and pop-up studios.
From the Liberty Lake Regional Park Master Plan to the Sandpoint Parks Master Plan Update, our landscape architecture team has been increasingly involved in the public process phase for projects. The success of these projects would not be the same without community members investing their time to share what matters most to them.
Written by Julia Culp, ASLA