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Much of planning is ritualistic: fill out the proper forms, pay the fee, meet the regulations. In most cases, the outcome is assured and generally accepted. Understandably, this routine rarely evokes passion or advocacy. There are planning processes, however, where passion is appropriate, and can even be helpful.
As an example, your community is embarking on a process to develop your first comprehensive parks and open space plan. When first you consider the project, it may seem that this planning exercise surely will be non-controversial and unlikely to arouse strong feelings. Everyone likes parks, and we never seem to have enough. Right? Sure, but, probe further and you will soon find that parks and open space mean different things to different people.
Naturalists and environmentalists have a decidedly different vision than those who favor well-manicured green lawns. There will never be enough playing fields for the sports enthusiasts. Advocates for appropriate access for the physically impaired will be concerned. You will hear from those who favor areas in which their pets can run free. People can indeed be passionate about these and other aspects of parks and open space planning. You can either ignore their interests until you have circulated the plan, or harness their passion for positive purposes. In many cases, it is as important to make a plan for the planning process as it is to create the actual plan. ...
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Elaine Cogan, founding principal of the Portland, Oregon planning and communications firm of Cogan Owens Cogan, has consulted for more than 36 years with communities undertaking strategic planning and visioning processes. Cogan has been honored for her work on a variety of citizen involvement projects.