Agriculture News

March 2, 2016  

Purdue Extension program's objective: enhance public spaces

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A Purdue Extension program that helps Indiana communities improve public spaces such as parks and town centers is surveying West Lafayette residents to get input on the city parks and recreation department's next five-year master plan.

Specialists and educators in Extension's Enhancing the Value of Public Spaces program are administering the survey and collecting and analyzing the feedback. The objective is to create a five-year plan for improving facilities, services and programs.

Citizens can access the survey online at http://tiny.cc/wlparkssurvey. Those who do not have access to a computer but would like to participate can receive a copy of the survey at the Morton Community Center, the Riverside Skating Center, the Lilly Nature Center and the West Lafayette Parks & Recreation Service Center on Kalberer Road. Deadline to complete the survey is March 15.

"The Enhancing program is strongly rooted in the community development principles of good practice," said Kara Salazar, sustainable communities Extension specialist. "As such, we concentrate on participation, inclusion, capacity building and balancing action planning with long-term sustainability."

Working with the West Lafayette Parks and Recreation Department, the Enhancing the Value of Public Spaces team brought together a diverse group of over 60 residents in two four-hour meetings last fall to consider the public spaces assets that West Lafayette has and how they can be made better and more sustainable. Participants included representatives of the police department, library, faith-based organizations, a youth soccer association and City Council, among other stakeholder groups.

Team leaders Salazar and Michael Wilcox, assistant program leader for community development, note that decisions about how to design and manage public spaces can have long-term effects on the social, economic and environmental health of communities. They emphasize that participation by the public is vital to the success of improvement projects designed specifically for their community.

"What we do is build capacity in the partnering organization to have a more inclusive group so there can be a holistic plan for the community rather than a cookie-cutter plan," Wilcox said.

Added Salazar: "The plans are then reflective of community values and needs."

The program team will conduct more community forums in West Lafayette, analyze data from the survey, interview members of stakeholder groups and then hand off the information to city consultants, who will complete the plan.

West Lafayette is one of several communities the Enhancing the Value of Public Spaces program has assisted in community improvement efforts. For example, it helped the city of Frankfort in Clinton County obtain a $40,000 grant from the Indiana office of Community and Rural Affairs for a downtown revitalization project.

It had a lead role in helping community leaders in Corydon in southern Indiana formulate plans for a park in commemoration of Indiana's bicentennial this year. The park in Indiana's first state capital is to open later this year.

The program also has been involved in projects in other Indiana communities, including Portage, Terre Haute, Princeton, Fort Wayne, Kokomo, Washington and Lebanon.

Writer: Keith Robinson, 765-494-2722, robins89@purdue.edu 

Sources: Kara Salazar, 765-496-1070, salazark@purdue.edu

Michael Wilcox, 765-494-7273, wilcox16@purdue.edu

Agricultural Communications: (765) 494-2722;
Keith Robinson, robins89@purdue.edu
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