Recreation Planners Use Technology To Get Public Participation

April 9, 2009 (CHARLESTON, SC) — “A 21st century way to engage the public directly in recreation and conservation decisions” – that’s how planner Edwin S. Gardner of Heritage Strategy Group describes the approach he and his team are taking to make sure the public is keenly involved in the 2010-2020 Tennessee State Recreation Plan.

“Using the new website SurveyMonkey.com, we’re now able to reach the public in ways that were impossible five years ago,” Gardner said, “and it isn’t costing the State a dime to do it.”

Heritage Strategy Group, a subsidiary of the architectural firm Studio A, Inc., in Charleston, South Carolina, recently received the contract for the state of Tennessee’s new Recreation Plan that will identify needs and issues and guide recreation and conservation policies in Tennessee for the next decade.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is holding a series of public meetings this month to get input into the plan that will guide the State’s recreation and conservation policies for the next 10 years.

To bring 21st century technology into the process, Gardner and Dr. Mark Fly, director of the University of Tennessee Human Dimensions Lab, are posting the same public-opinion survey online that meeting attendees will receive.

The survey will be available soon on the Tennessee Department of Conservation and Environment website (www.tennessee.gov/environment/recreation/plan) “so we can hear from people all over the state, not just those who make it to one of the meetings,” Gardner said. “This should generate a far greater response than we’ve ever had before.”

Making the survey available online is “a big first for Tennessee,” noted Gardner, who served as conservation and preservation planner for that state’s 2003 Recreation Plan, which the National Park Service cited as one of the nation’s best and “a model for other states to follow.”

Using technology to reach more people “is part of our firm’s intention to use every available method to generate as much public participation in this planning process as possible,” Gardner said. “We’re certain that the more Tennesseans we get involved in the decision-making process, the more accurate, responsive, and effective the eventual plan is going to be.”

The new Recreation Plan will include the state’s 2020 Land and Water “Vision Plan” as well as the five-year Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP). The SCORP is a federally mandated program that makes states eligible to receive federal Land and Water Conservation Fund grants through the National Park Service for acquiring, developing, and renovating outdoor recreation facilities.

Gardner and his team intend to publicize the survey throughout the state, to ask meeting attendees to send the link to their friends, and to ask recreation-related organizations to send the link to their members. They hope to get over 5000 responses.

Consultants on the Tennessee State Recreation Plan include Barge Waggoner of Sumner & Cannon in Knoxville, Tennessee, and the Human Dimensions Research Lab at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture.

The public meetings are being held in Farragut, Chattanooga, Jackson, and Murfreesboro. The new Recreation Plan should be completed by August 2009, Gardner said. The National Park Service’s approval is expected by the end of the year.

Edwin Gardner recently created a blog — http://heritagestrategy.wordpress.com — as an addendum to Studio A’s website (www.studioa-architecture) to more fully describe the work of a heritage planner and the impact such planning has on all forms of conservation.

The 2003-2008 plan is currently available at www.tennessee.gov/environment/recreation/plan. The survey for the 2010-2020 plan will be available at that site soon.

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Posted by blueplate pr

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