Understanding Our Community Phase I laid the foundation for a new community engagement approach to increase the enjoyment of open space and nature in our local communities. The project resulted in a deeper understanding of the demographic makeup of the communities served by the Authority. Key findings, primarily based on strategic analysis of census data, enabled the Authority to better understand the barriers our communities face when accessing the outdoors.
Phase II builds on this analysis and utilizes additional research and partner input to illuminate the needs of the area’s residents that can be addressed, in part, by improved access to nature. Examples of partner input include health risk factors, access to healthy foods, locations of urban farms, community gardens, and park access points. It also expands four of the six Deep Engagement Community (DEC) boundaries, in order to incorporate communities where additional focus and support can result in the greatest benefit to local residents. By further exploring the needs of these communities, the Authority hopes to inform and inspire local organizations to help reduce barriers and expand access to nature.
The data presented in Understanding Our Community are resources which the Authority anticipates will be used to continue to inform our Urban Grant Program and where to focus our Community Engagement efforts. We also hope these resources will spark new ideas in the community on ways to bring more nature access to the residents for whom it will bring the most benefit, thereby making nature access more equitable in our region.
The Authority will utilize Phase II as a strategic investment prioritization tool to inspire new projects and strategic partnerships. This tool will provide meaningful opportunities for community engagement and community action to reduce barriers to accessing nature. The Authority hopes that the information gathered will propel efforts and motivate new partnerships to expand opportunities that bring more nature-based benefits to our urban communities. In doing so, the Open Space Authority will serve its community while also acting as a model to conservation organizations across the country.