Friday, October 17, 2008

Good meeting Tuesday, next meeting Monday night!

First off remember we've got our first evening meeting of the year this year on Monday, at 6:00, in Centenary Square. Coffee and tea will be available, as will the internet and projection capabilities in case there's anything you'd want to show the group. (Usually we have google maps on the screen so we can zoom in and show various sites that relate to whatever we're talking about.)

Monday evening we'll be talking about:
  • The meeting I will have had that afternoon with Shelly Raigle, Director of SPAR, and Tim Wachtel, SPAR planner and ABetterShreveport contributor.
  • The value of ABetterShreveport becoming a 501 non-profit organization.
  • The opportunity of working with and possibly through The Center for Civic Engagement at Centenary.
  • Targetting Walk/Bike-to-School rates for specific schools.
  • Gaining access to the bayous slowly and legally, versus "quick and dirty."
We had a very good meeting this past Monday morning, and I wanted to thank, by way of introduction, all who attended and contributed: Steve Shelburne, Centenary English Professor and Founding Director of the Centenary Center for Civic Engagement; Jeff Wellburn, natural gas marketer and consultant (and a model of civic engagement himself); Paula Hickman, an attorney and Director of the Shreveport-Bossier Community Foundation; Tim Wachtel, Planner for the Shreveport Public Assembly and Recreation Department (SPAR); Charles Gerrard, Director of the Highland Area Partnership; Brad Armstrong, commercial real estate developer; Sally Spruel, Co-President of the Historic South Highlands Neighborhood Association; and myself, a sociologist at Centenary.

The short summary of our meeting is that we talked about the following:
  • how to think about funding the greenways proposal
  • what parties to involve in the working group that would push the proposal forward
  • the importance of making the greenways and trails part of an alternative transportation network that common origins and destinations
  • the utility of using existing infrastructure for that network that would include existing streets, some perhaps repainted with bike lanes
  • the utility of creating pilot transportation networks of trails and recommended walking and biking routes centered around schools, perhaps helped by:
  • our state department of transportation's Safe Routes to School Program
  • "mashups" where people are able to draw on online maps as a way of sharing their recommended routes
  • Steve Shelburne described his project of establishing an architectural restoration facility that could be situated in Highland or downtown.

The meeting began at roughly 8:30.

I started by reviewing our agenda, then updated the group on the status of our grant applications to the E.P.A. and the National Park Service for counsel on creating an alternative transportation network of multiuse paths and greenways using our existing infrastructure of levees, drainage bayous, and streets. Neither grant is for funding, though presumably some of the counsel we could get would be on how we should go about getting funding for the project. The gist of the update is that we haven't heard from the National Park Service yet, nor from the E.P.A. since our semi-final round interview.

I said that some of us on the phone for that interview got the impression that the E.P.A. was reticent about our application because we didn't have a governmental point person for the project. I said I had a meeting ahead with Shelly Wrangle of SPAR on Monday with Tim, and I asked about the team or work-group that we might want included. Jeff mentioned that DOS, and how Mike Strong or Wes Wyche would represent that at the upper level; Jeff also mentioned that Ali Mustafa is the water drainage engineer who is a great person to work with. It was said that other work group members might come from MPC, Shreveport Green, possibly someone from the Department of Health (obesity researchers in town were also mentioned), and the Department of Transportation Safe Routes to School Program (I mentioned Donna Cavenaugh of ThinkFirst). It was suggested that we consider asking the Mayor's office to lead it, or NLCOG. I mentioned that I'd talked to Dale Sibley about that originally. [Come to think of it, Dale may have suggested SPAR because he'd forgotten about the transportation network dimension of the project and was thinking of it more as just recreational. However, the transportation network aspect of the proposal should be part of it's appeal for funders, particularly when use of these networks has been shown to reduce wear and tear on roads.

I also described the idea that Jon Soul and I and Ian Webb had talked about on how we could target our own Montessori school's ride/walk rate with a number of strategies. One would be mapping the network of school families and constructing a set of recommended safe routes for "walking school buses" where a parent or two escorts kids on their walk or bike ride to school. (I do the walking thing myself; never thought I'd love it as much as I do.)

We talked about NLCOG as a possible convener for the working group if the Mayor's Office doesn't want to do it, or, even if it does, NLCOG might provide a better organizational vantage point if we want to apply the project to Bossier and places outside the city as well. For example, making a levee-top path that links Shreveport and Alexandria would be one application of the proposal that would fall outside the purview of city governments, but that would certainly be in the domain NLCOG. Paula Hickman described how NLCOG is often a conduit for federal monies used for transportation, and how they'd worked on getting the buses to run late [chuckles], and how they are the designated regional planning authority for our area. Paula said she thought NLCOG would be interested in working with our group. (I also mentioned how NLCOG's new bike-pedestrian advocacy committee met for the first time last week and five of our group on it [Maurice Loridans, Ian Webb, Emma McCarty, Robert Trudeau, and myself] and how it is trying to find potential members of the committee who are non-white.)

Steve Shelburne mentioned that as new public spaces, these greenways would be perceived as additional space that needs to be policed. Because of this, police officials should be brought into the planning process for the network sooner rather than later.

We also discussed why the working group would need GIS data, and how it will be helpful to know what software they use to work with it.

At 9:30 a number of people had to leave, but the meeting continued.

Steve talked about a project he's working on to establish a Restoration Facility somewhere in town. The facility would accept donations from demolition projects and renovations and would provide an outlet for cheap renovation materials. A number of them apparently exist in Dallas and bring in thousands of dollars in yearly revenue. Steve said facilities such as these help preserve historical materials and architecture details. Places like Shreveport's Highland area and downtown are in the process of losing such valuable materials without a facility like this.

I wondered aloud if it might also be able to serve an empowering role for people as well, in that the facility might be able to double as a center for mentoring apprentices learning construction, salvage, even tool maintenance. A bicycle shop or even car shop could also become part of the facilitation's communal resources. I described how a student of mine was working on a proposal for a tool collective in Highland.

The meeting ended at 10:00.

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