Anyone remotely interested in urban planning, revitalization, hiking, kayaking, bicycling, history, civics, urban design, community spirit, canals, economic development, the environment, or cities in general should download and listen to the November 19, 2013 podcast and powerpoint presentation of Tuesdays at APA from Chicago. Despite its elongated title of ”Plants, Paddles, and People: Creating Community through Green Infrastructure and Riverfront Development in Blue Island, Illinois,” the presentation by Jason Berry, AICP and Abby Crisostomo is a succinct, interesting, very useful, thought-provoking, and enjoyable podcast. Though many of these podcasts have been good, this one is easily the best one I have listened to date.
The cooperative planning efforts and actions taken thus far are quite impressive, as are forthcoming endeavors that were articulated. In particular, I love the idea of TOD being re-coined as “trail-oriented development,” the collegiate rowing center (something I had suggested here for the Grand River in downtown Greater Lansing, Michigan a while back), and the concept of changing the message from negative site signage and references to accentuating the positive. Furthermore, it is obvious that Daniel Burnham’s call to “make no small plans” was a built into the equation. Given the success thus far, I have every confidence that Blue Island will succeed in accomplishing all of its goals and objectives.
Blue Island, Illinois is fortunate to have so many legacy assets from which to build a strong future upon and is also a blessed with participating stakeholders who care about their community. Not every community in this country can say the same thing, as petty squabbles, rivalries, egos, and turf wars fracture civility and cooperation more often than many of us would like to admit.
As an avid hiker, bicyclist, and kayaker who loves American canal-era history, I cannot wait to travel to Blue Island for pedaling the Cal-Sag Trail (weblink to the Cal-Sag Trail Plan) and kayaking the Calumet Water Trail. My guess is that is exactly what the planners and community leaders were hoping for. Many kudos to the two presenters, Jason and Abby, as well as to David Morley from American Planning Association for a job very well done! Folks – this is exactly what great planning is all about!