Richard J. Kerber, Chief Planning and Design Officer
Patty J. Stevens, Manager of Park Planning
Cleveland Metroparks 2020: The Emerald Necklace Centennial Plan
Cleveland Metroparks completed a comprehensive planning process in 2012 that established a framework for actions to enhance the overall system, facilities and services in conservation, education and recreation. The plan, Cleveland Metroparks 2000: Conserving Our Natural Heritage was documented as two companion volumes:
- Executive Summary
- Reservation Concept Plans
The Executive Summary outlines guiding principles as strategic commitments that serve as the philosophical context for capital improvements and system wide initiatives. The strategic commitments represent an organizational response to critical issues, community needs, interests, and trends identified through a process of significant engagement of users, non-users, staff, professional experts and regional leaders.
The Reservation Concept Plans, guided by the strategic commitments, recommend long term strategies for each reservation in terms of conservation, recreation, education, infrastructure and land protection. The plans, conceptual in nature, form the basis for capital improvement and natural resource protection activities.
During the past several years, Cleveland Metroparks since 1995. Over the next two years (2011-2012), Cleveland Metroparks undertook a process to set forth a vision to guide future decision-making and priorities for the next decade, i.e., to 2020. In general, the process included the following basic elements:
- Review of the previous plan, i.e. Metroparks 2000: Conserving Our Natural Heritage.
- Review and update of the critical issues and trends affecting the region.
- Evaluation of community needs, interests and visions.
- Affirmation and refinement of Cleveland Metroparks strategic commitments as the philosophical underpinnings of Metroparks 2020.
- Development of individual reservation plans, updates to the Metroparks 2000 Concept Value Plans.
The planning approach was a participatory process with extensive internal and external review, input and plan formulation. Designed to build a common vision and framework for strategic action in the realization of Cleveland Metroparks mission through the next decade, i.e. 2020, the process was organized around a series of progressive steps that moved through a refinement process of inquiry, discovery, understanding, evaluation, imagining, response and plan identification. Recognizing the complexities, dynamic qualities and interdependencies of a regional, highly urbanized open space system, the planning process was intended to result in a framework for supporting decision making. Plan recommendations were developed as guidelines for future, system wide strategies with specific recommendations for individual reservations as Reservation Concept Plans.
The basic steps of the planning process included:
- Establishment of plan objectives and context
- Inventory and analysis of existing conditions (market, facilities, natural resources, etc.)
- Evaluation of issues and trends
- Identification of strategic commitments
- Preparation of reservation “Concept Plans”
- Plan monitoring and adaptive management
Cleveland Metroparks integrates community involvement into the planning process as a means to gain input relative to public needs/interests, issues/concerns, values and perceptions relative to the park district. To ensure appropriate involvement a variety of mechanisms are utilized, including:
- Focus groups
- Public forums
- User & non-user surveys
The planning process was initiated in 2010 with internal mapping and data collection. Park staff, organized into reservation planning teams reviewed the current conditions of the reservations and the facilities. A user and non-user assessment was completed in 2011. The survey included 4,500 individual interviews and an additional 1500 telephone interviews. The survey work is consistent with previous surveys conducted over the past 30 years to enable a valuable evaluation of trends and shifts in utilization patterns.
A “strategic vision” component of the plan was developed in 2011 and 2012 utilizing extensive community input and outside consultants. The consultants provided expertise in large scale environmental planning, water front recreation and conservation, park operations and management, and “place making” with parks as a public health and wellness investment. Interviews with community leaders, community forums and the user/non-user survey were the primary means of gathering public input.
During 2012, the “Strategic vision” was used to inform the refinement of Reservation Concept Plans and included specific facility and site improvement recommendations for each of the reservations.