Civic engagement is an important part of the County’s planning processes to ensure accountability and transparency with projects and plans that affect the public. For the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), collecting public feedback and working alongside community members to develop and maintain parks is the key to providing appreciated, needed, best-in-class recreation opportunities for all to enjoy.
“We hold meetings to connect with stakeholders, the general public and community leaders,” said Dave Holt, County of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation District Manager. “We listen to what they have to say. By involving them from the get-go, we’re more likely to be successful in meeting their goals.”
Last year, DPR sent a needs assessment survey to San Diego County residents. Questions focused on topics like facility preferences, programs and services, park accessibility and trails. Results were presented to DPR leadership and shared with local advisory groups. From there, the department was able to start shaping priorities for various communities within the County, and for the department as a whole. This is part of an established set of guidelines, outlined in Board Policy F-26.
Once priorities have been set, it’s time to start taking action. DPR holds community workshops and summits in areas that have been selected for new facilities or servieces. Invitations are shared via the DPR website and social media channels, including Facebook and Twitter. Fliers are distributed to local businesses and groups. Residents within 300 feet of the proposed park or amenity also receive a letter in the mail. In some situations, volunteers go door-to-door. Board Policy I-44 highlights communication requirements for public meetings.
Before each meeting, an agenda is sent to advisory groups in the area. Members work alongside County officials to finalize that agenda and coordinate presentations. All meetings are governed under the Brown Act and the notes from each meeting are posted online. Agendas vary based on need. Many will involve concept plans or early visions of how a park, amenity or open space might change.
Once a series of workshops is complete and all concept plans have been vetted by all stakeholders, a final concept plan is announced. That plan is presented to the community advisory group for recommendation and then shared with the Board of Supervisors for approval. This is just a snapshot of how the system works; some changes take months to approve while others could take years.
Per Board Policy F-26, “On an annual basis, the Department of Parks and Recreation shall request a 5 year priority list from each Planning Group or other approved entity within the unincorporated county, for purposes of defining community recommendations for use of Park Lands Dedication Ordinance funds.”
Based on the 5 year priority list, as soon as one project wraps up, another is launched from the list. It’s an ongoing cycle and the work never stops – which is great news because it means we are continuously raising the bar to bring best-in-class recreation opportunities to San Diego!