At a lengthy workshop held at the Homer Public Library on Sunday, March 20, approximately 20 Homer residents from various organizations or personal interests and expertise in local and natural history of the area came together to talk about the West Lot, mostly undeveloped at this point, at the far end of the library parking lot. Efforts to improve the site were considered from the early 2000s with funding constraints until Friends of the Homer Public Library received a grant from the National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program (RTCA). Once established, a community team was created and this March workshop was organized in partnership with American Society of Landscape Architects volunteers Peter Briggs and Elise Huggins.
The day involved several tasks, but to share the overall process, I sat down with Briggs and Huggins to explain how the day’s tasks went.
Elise Huggins started with this explanation, “We did a traditional landscape architecture process for design to develop concepts. We started with a site survey site inventory which began with a walking site tour allowing the whole group to walk around and map out for themselves what they thought was important and what was important. ‘they saw. Next, we defined the programming details. We started getting people to think about what activities could take place on this project? Then we took a break for lunch. And then after lunch, we came back; and a key thing someone might mention is an activity like “I want to watch a dance performance”, but a good thing to address is understanding how that activity is delivered. So ask people what they want to feel or what the experience should be like, and then slowly get into what they need to enable that. So “rest areas” are a good example. We should always have a place where people can sit. So: it’s comfortable, it’s got a good view, it feels good and then it gets to the point where people start saying, “well, I need a chair to sit on or we want 10 chairs. Then we go from there to having people plan what they wanted in the park to find places for each of those activities and to start outlining what shape that place could be for that activity. “
I think one of the best things about this workshop was the interaction that happened between so many people, you know, going from group to group, people just exchanging ideas and coming up with different solutions.
What were the groups of people involved? Examples: Youth Services Librarian, Friends of the Homer Library Board Members, representatives from community-wide organizations such as Sprout, Homer Trails, Homer Seed Garden, Kachemak Heritage Land Trust, City of Homer Parks and Recreation and Homer Chamber of Commerce, local historians, teachers from various public schools and Kenai Peninsula College, parents and others.
With an extensive site information package encouraging consideration of the land use and community context of the service area, including general ecosystem qualities, plants, landscape, birds and mammals, trail networks, access and connectivity, and other characteristics related to age, cultures, and ability to move – generally, consideration of the equity of public spaces. Attendees received a brief introduction from Cheryl Ilg, President of Friends and a general overview of the day’s process, we started by “site mapping” the lot. Grab a blank map and walk the gravel path through the semi-bare forest, down the edge of Poopdeck Street at the end of the site, then back along Hazel Avenue behind Safeway to find yourself in the library.
In small groups, people shared their observations and recorded them on a larger group map which is then presented to the whole audience. Here are some examples of what we talked about, the background noise is loud because there are 4 tables close together:
“The plant survey I did was in the fall. So everything is dead. I mean, you know, there are and I would see that you know raspberries or salmon berries are probably raspberries and you know that stuff so there’s still a lot to do. There must be nettles in there and all kinds of things. So, you know, I don’t think there’s any Baneberry there, but the main Berry is there, it’ll come in the summer, and it’s very poisonous. It’s definitely one to watch.
Signage and QR codes
“But, some could be combined, you know find creative ways for a sign to talk about culture and how to pick berries and safety,” one woman said. Another pointed out: “If we use QR codes they can get additional information and I think part of the idea of what the QR code was was also to connect people to different places in the city. . Want to know more? Go to the Pratt Museum or Islands and Oceans.
Other topics of discussion included: picnic tables and eating areas, teaching/reading areas, possibly a covered space, stage or performance space, statues, quieter areas, possibly reading areas and a garden.
Lizzy Dean of the National Park Service’s RTCA program talks about what happens next in the process.
“Well, now we go back and Peter and Elise work their magic a bit putting the ideas together. And then the planning team comes back and finds that the best way is to engage different members of the community to get feedback and start refining the ideas and make sure it really represents what community members want to see I think it was a really good ride home today, even though it’s just started this morning with someone who talked about his vision for it being a place where you could pass on the legacy is to make sure the next generation that it was worth to them the idea that it is a place for everyone and it reflects everyone and it’s a place I love all day all day the idea of people saying you go to the library So because of the park, there are different things to do, is that it becomes much more that you get a book that you take out to the park. You read it, you watch your children play. It’s a nice community place.