I covered municipal government long enough to know that high-minded studies produced by well-meaning citizens frequently end up gathering dust. Such exercises are often intended to give people the illusion of involvement without having them be, well, actually involved.
The visioning process recently launched by the City of Winter Park feels different. That’s partly because this is Winter Park — a place where people are unusually involved and passionate about their city — and partly because of the caliber of the 21-member Visioning Steering Committee.
Busy people won’t sign on for a yearlong project that they assume will be ultimately ignored.
The visioning panel — along with city staffers and facilitators from Logan Simpson Design of Colorado, a consulting firm that specializes in community planning — is charged with producing a big-picture blueprint for Winter Park’s future.
Recommendations will be non-binding, but at this point it’s the process itself that really counts. If done right, the final document will provide guidance for decades to come.
To the city’s credit, it’s working to make certain that everyone who wishes to participate has an opportunity to do so. Success, of course, depends entirely upon involvement. If people feel truly vested in the process, then the vision is more likely to become a reality.
Visit visionwinterpark.org, a website recently launched by the city, and check it out for yourself. If the website doesn’t answer your questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask. If you’re still not feeling fully informed, call 407-599-3665 and have a conversation.
By now, there have been several opportunities for public input. There’ll be additional opportunities in the coming months. Winter Park, a place that’s defined by its unique character, needs people who care about it to step up and speak their mind.
Which shouldn’t be a problem. Everybody I know has opinions about what the city should and shouldn’t do, short-term and long-term.
In fact, Winter Park today is a thriving testament to the importance of visioning. Its founders weren’t fast-buck speculators; they were visionaries. And their plan for the city has stood the test of time since the 1880s.
Settlers like Oliver Chapman and Loring Chase undoubtedly never used the word “visioning.” But there’s no question that, in the realm of urban design, they helped invent the concept.
Participation in this process ought to be a no-brainer for Winter Parkers. After all, visioning is in our civic DNA.