In planning and designing new facilities, park and recreation agencies typically seek public input through a meeting or a series of meetings. However, such meetings may not be the most effective way to obtain input that reflects all segments of communities and their diverse viewpoints. Children (under 18 years of age), for example, are often underrepresented or not represented at all. This is certainly alarming but not entirely surprising, considering that the formal or rigid nature of most public meetings can intimidate and discourage kids of all ages from openly sharing their ideas and thoughts. Given that children are key park users and parks contribute significantly to their development and quality of life, we must be intentional and creative in how we engage them in the planning and design of parks, as explained in the article “Engaging Children in the Park Planning Process.”
Local educators may serve as important partners in efforts to reach out to the youth, as explained in this Antelope Valley Press article. Recently, nearly 150 students from Littlerock High School in Southern California contributed their thoughts on proposed improvements to Stephen Sorensen Park as part of a writing assignment and survey completed in conjunction with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. This is all thanks to teacher Joanie Haynes, who decided to get students involved and provide their input during a public comment period for various proposed improvements to Sorensen Park. The students responded to a survey with questions like whether they had ever visited the park, what improvements they would like to see, and what might encourage them to visit the park. Students then had to support their responses with short essays.