Source: The Corydon Democrat

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Workshop outlines planning public spaces

by Jo Ann Spieth-Saylor

January 28, 2014

A handful of Harrison Countians participated in a pilot workshop at the Purdue Building in Corydon that focused on enhancing the value of public spaces.

Dr. Michael Wilcox Jr. and Kara Salazar, both from the Extension services through Purdue University, conducted the workshop.

"We do have an eye on Harrison County," said Wilcox, whose area of expertise is economic development.

The early part of the workshop had participants consider "community" capital when thinking about enhancement projects.

"Good public spaces promote people's health, happiness and well-being," Salazar, a sustainable communities Extension specialist, said.

Generally, she said, public spaces are "very diverse and peppered throughout" communities; however, there often are shared resources, as is the case with parks and farmers' markets.

Wilcox added that it's important to consider access to these spaces, not just as required by the Americans With Disabilities Act, but "from all different points of views."

After the group named several tangible public spaces, including the historic downtown Corydon, the county's parks and trails and the Ohio River, as well as intangibles, such as a variety of special-interests groups, Wilcox said he was surprised that the group had offered a regional perspective.

Doug Sellers, a resident of Elizabeth who works for a landscape architecture firm in Louisville, explained how Harrison County is part of the Louisville Metropolitan area, with many residents crossing the Ohio River for employment.

Darrell Voelker, director of the Harrison County Economic Development Corp., mentioned that the Ohio River Scenic Byway runs through the county, even though many people probably aren't aware of it.

"Some would argue that you're taking my tax dollars and spending them on things I don't use," Wilcox said. "Even if you don't use it, you have to understand the economic impact it has."

Rand Heazlitt relayed how the Harrison County Community Foundation "acts as a clearinghouse for these ideas and vision planning."

Salazar outlined the seven areas of capital — built, natural, human, social, cultural, financial and political — and provided visual examples of each from various communities throughout the state.

While discussing built capital, Steve Gilliland, executive director of the HCCF, mentioned how the lack of sewers throughout the county continues to be a problem.

George Ethridge, one of the county's three commissioners, said during the discussion about political capital how he considers the impact requests would have on youth and families.

"We can't fund everything," he said. "We have to be good stewards of public money" while also maintaining roads and buildings.

Wilcox talked about the six "D's" involved when tackling a public-space project:

•Define — What do you focus on? What do you want out of the public space?

• Discovery — What is working well?

• Dream — Envision what the space might be

• Design — Find innovative ways to create that dream

• Delivery — Create a way to sustain the change

• Debrief — Reflect on the work that was done and what wasn't done; celebrate the success of the project

After lunch, the group worked through a proposed project, looking at strategies, potential impacts the project could have, outcome indicators, which Wilcox said can sometimes be difficult to measure, and the collection process.

As part of the pilot program, Annette Lawler, Harrison County's Extension educator, highlighted the county in the curriculum as a "best practice."

Salazar said Purdue offers many resources for a variety of projects and programs. Those include grant writing, tipping points and indicators, rebuilding the local food system and regional decision-making.

For more information about the program or others that are available, contact Lawler by e-mail at aclawler@purdue.edu or call the Extension office at 738-4236.