This year ICA’s programming delved a bit deeper and connected residents and local organizations to collectively develop a community planning process to bring awareness and action to Uptown’s unique, fragile, and beautiful coastal zone. The planning process was made possible by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Coastal Management Program.
The pre-planning phase involved meeting one-on-one with over a dozen stakeholders at the local, citywide, and statewide level. With this key stakeholder input, the program team designed sessions following the arc of ToP Strategic Planning process, and adapted it to fit within four two-hour long sessions. Outreach materials were created and disseminated throughout Uptown, drawing in residents and local organizations to the planning sessions.
These sessions generated three areas of interest for working groups:
Promoting Sustainability in and through Projects and Programs: There are a number of existing projects and developments in the Uptown area that could benefit from engagement with residents and a sustainability lens.
Connecting Organizations to Encourage Community Sustainability: Uptown is rich in community organizations doing great work, and this group aims to identify and connect those groups to foster collaborations.
Creating Ways to Access Nature: Uptown’s existing green space continues to be in competition with development. This group aims to increase the visibility of green spaces to generate support to care for and improve Uptown’s nature areas.
Following the completion of the planning process, the participants decided to celebrate the plan with a potluck dinner and invited additional residents to join one of three working groups to implement the plan in 2017. ICA received additional funding from NOAA and IDNR for 2017 and will begin educational programming about Uptown’s Coastal Zone and how the lakefront’s assets are related to a variety of fields ranging from mental health professionals to architects. ICA will organize a series of eight experiential-learning sessions focused on eight different interest areas, and will create a toolkit of strategies to connect the relevance of the Coastal Zone to any field.