Published first on the Progress News, June 1, 2021
Redevelopment work requires significant input and feedback from the community, so that those of us pulling strings together to weave the tapestry of our future know what sort of design everyone would like to see. There’s one segment of the community, however, which is often left out of the conversation. Their input is desired, but generally only through a filter – the filter of parents, teachers, and other adults who speak on their behalf.
Children are the future, as the saying goes, and yet when it comes to talking about and deciding what that future should look like, we tend to relegate children to the background, asking them to be listeners, observers, and followers. Some folks might believe that kids don’t yet have the experience and context to know what they want, but I generally counter that a fair few adults don’t either!
So, yes, I talk to kids much the same way I talk to adults, and I ask them the same questions, and I give their responses the same weight. Sure, there are always some requests that I can’t quite promise to fulfill (I’ll do what I can to attract the unicorn demographic, Ava!) but I’ve had similar requests from people of all ages. The important thing is to try and understand the root of such requests, after all, not necessarily the literal interpretation. While I can’t promise unicorns, I can work toward spaces that allow all of us to experience the beauty and joy of nature, that allow our imaginations to soar and our creativity to flourish. If a unicorn shows up, bonus!
Besides unicorns, Ava Brosnahan and her brother Ian shared that what they would most like to see in the Valley is a nature-based play and exploration area, an idea echoed by Sally Brewer, who specifically wants to have a tree stump course, and a nice hammock to rest in at the end. My daughter Kya added ideas for ways our communities can be more active and connected, like a community fun center, a park in downtown Foxburg, and a robust trail network linking all of our towns together – no cars needed!
Anikka Bawa supports fewer cars, too, sharing that she would like to be able to ride horses in the Valley, and she also suggested an observation tower along the river that could be used for both scenic enjoyment as well as public safety. Nature certainly is a recurrent theme amongst our younger residents, and my son Archer is a proponent of a local animal rescue center and veterinary hospital. Likewise, Kristopher Reynolds wants more ways to get out and enjoy our natural surroundings, such as having a full-service outdoor outfitters again to rent bikes and fishing equipment, and he’d also like to see charging stations for electric bikes and cars.
Children have amazing ideas, and I’d like to encourage all of our area kids to share those ideas with us. Send me a note, or ask your parents to log on to acrivervalley.org so that you can fill out the community Vision Survey. This is Your future, so let us know what you’d like to see!