As New Yorkers, we cherish our summers. As planners, we know that summer can be a challenging time to engage communities in planning initiatives. We’re competing with summer vacations, festivals, backyard cookouts, and sunny weather. No one wants to sit indoors on a beautiful summer evening. How can we take advantage of summer weather to engage community members in our planning initiatives?
Here are some examples of engagement techniques that take advantage of warm weather and long days!
Host a paddle meeting. Invite participants to experience a waterfront site or trail from a new perspective (i.e. from the water itself). Give community members the chance to experience the water, learn about waterfront access, redevelopment, and think in new ways about future opportunities. Kayaks, stand-up paddle boards (SUPs), and canoes can offer a low impact and accessible way for people of all paddling abilities to participate.
- Tip: Consider partnering with an established kayak/canoe rental company. They can arrange for waivers, insurance, safety equipment, instruction, and often will transport boats to and from your desired location.
- Tip: Find a short route (1-3 miles) that you can use to showcase your site, corridor, or trail in 60 to 90 minutes. Pick a safe and interesting location along the route to dismount and engage participants in an interactive exercise. Prompt participants to think about their experience in a new way and share their reflections with you.
Host a Bike Trolley Pedal Tour. Fifteen people on a giant bike. Need I say more?
- Tip: If your site is not within an area that is already served by a pedal tour company, find out if the company can transport the bike trolley to your desired location. Keep the route short and consider offering multiple trips of 30 to 40 minutes each.
Use alternative forms of transportation to engage elderly or disabled community members. Consider including golf carts along with the above techniques to allow less mobile members of the community to participate.
- Tip: There are golf cart rental companies that will deliver golf carts to you. Rental fees can vary from daily fees ($75-100) to package deals for multiple days.