My son has been working on a project for his grade nine year. At his middle school, graduating students are required to complete a year-long project called a MasterWorks. Finn has chosen the reconstruction of a downhill bike skills park. Earlier this year, our local government flattened the one we had without consultation, and Finn has been part of the team leading the charge to rebuild it in a different location.
My dad has been active in his community working on developing a dog park and also helping the village with it’s official community plan. As a result, he has become an official mentor for Finn on his project and yesterday he sent along some great advice about how to get things done with local government.
Here’s his advise:
Your mom told me about your Masterworks project. I would love to share some of my experiences working on projects with the Town of the Blue Mountains. Here are some thoughts to start with if you want to get help from your local government.;
1. Clearly Identify Your Project (New Bike Park)
Describe why this is important to you and your community and other bikers. You are competing with many other municipal projects such as roads, water systems and other things which might have been discussed during your recent election.
Identify any benefits to the community such as a safe place for kids to develop their biking skills and to hang out. A healthy place to play outside without electronics. A showplace for the Municipality.
2. Build a Support Group
Set up a spreadsheet or Word table and add a line for each of your biking friends, their parents and anyone else who will support you. Each line records their name, mailing address, phone number and most importantly, email address. The more names you can get the better. Municipalities will pay attention to groups of people who need something. They often ignore individuals.
Use the email addresses to send out newsletters to the Group whenever something is happening. Ask the Group for additional names of people who might help or offer support.
Provide a copy of the list to the Municipality to show them that you are not alone.
3. Build Bridges
Never bad mouth members of your Council or municipal staff. They were elected by your neighbours or were hired based on their credentials. Getting them mad at you will not help your project.
Find ways to meet individual members of Council or staff to ask for advice on what you need to do to complete your Project. I think you have already done some of this. Do not stop with one meeting. Once you have made some contacts, stay in touch either in person or by phone or email. This shows them that you are serious about your project.
Send a note to each person recently elected, thanking them for being willing to help govern your community. Ask for their support for your project. You can also contact those who lost the election, thanking them for running and asking them for any ideas on moving your project forward.
4. Set Up a Project Plan
I think you have already started this.
1. Create a design for the bike park. Define the dimensions (how much land will be required). What materials will be needed (fencing, ramps, jumps etc).
2. Who will build the Park. Your Support Group? The Town? Local contractor donation of time and equipment?
3. How much will it cost. Where will the money come from? Can your Group do some fund raising? This is always helpful. Municipalities prefer not to fund special interest groups by sharing the costs with all the property owners (tax payers) who may not want to use your Park. I believe the Town is interested in providing another site from land available as public parks.
4. Who will manage the Park. What rules will be required to satisfy the Town so they can avoid liability if someone gets hurt. Usually the Town will cover themselves with a sign at the Park. What rules do other Municipalities use?
5. Who will maintain the Park. Your Support Group? The Parks department? The more you can find ways to limit the cost of the Park for the Municipality, the more they will be interested. There is never enough money to provide all the things that everybody wants.
6. Identify the Project Schedule. When do you want the Park to open? What does the Town need to do to make this happen? By-law changes? Approval of a budget. Availability of Town staff to prepare a site, install fencing etc.