The Orton Family Foundation has been investing in community planning and the results are compelling (their website has been having a little trouble, but will hopefully be working soon). The Damariscotta, ME, Heart and Soul community planning project is a collaboration between citizens and planning experts that seeks to uncover, preserve, and strengthen the essential characteristics of the local community.
The Heart and Soul planing process is described on Damariscotta’s planning site:
DPAC is the Damariscotta Planning Advisory Committee, established by Damariscotta’s selectmen in June 2007 as a think tank to advise Damariscotta’s Board of Selectmen on what the community hopes Damariscotta will look like in the future. DPAC is made up of a broad range of individuals with specific planning, development or other skills, or simply an interest in ensuring that the future of the town reflects the broadest consensus of opinion rather than that of special interests.
DPAC’s Mission Statement is to lead a community-driven process to make the Damariscotta region a better place to live, work, play, do business and visit for people of all ages by advancing policies and practices that foster sustainable land use and prosperity. In short, DPAC wants to avoid contentious town development issues that can (and have) easily polarize communities. DPAC hopes to leverage the community’s wisdom and experience to turn its dreams into reality”
This planning process included surveys, creative community brainstorm and design meetings, and the creation of a movie capturing the essence of town life. Many of these tools and concepts can be found at (or at least extrapolated from) their website.
The results of the planning process, shared in an extensive presentation, are impressive both in terms of the quality and depth of the plans and in terms of the fidelity of the process to the interests and values of community members. There is little doubt that they are the product of a highly collaborative planning process that must have been enriching as a learning experience for community members even if it hadn’t produced such comprehensive results.
This word web, or “wordle” is a nice representation of the Damaricotta community’s sense of self and the concept is a great thought-tool for sharing and building common values among community members and between members and planners.