City of Easton to Explore Potential of 7 Pocket Parks through Community Visioning Process
EASTON, PA – August 10, 2020 – The City of Easton will explore the opportunities for several of its pocket parks thanks to a recent grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The grant will fund the development of a master plan that will involve public input through a community visioning process.
A pocket park is a small piece of property, typically the size of a residential lot or a little larger, located within a residential neighborhood. The seven parks that are being studied as part of the visioning process, five located in the West Ward neighborhood and two located in the South Side neighborhood, have been identified as priorities due to being underserved and in need of improvements.
The $15,000 PA DCNR grant is being matched by $15,000 from the city. The goal of the visioning process is to collect public input on how residents would like to see these parcels used and what specific features they would like to see on them. The feedback will be compiled into the master plan, the data from which will be used by the city when applying for future grant opportunities to help pay for the parks’ redevelopment.
“The grant that the City of Easton received from PA DCNR will allow us to explore the possibilities of these largely underutilized parks in the city’s West Ward and South Side neighborhoods,” said Easton Mayor Sal Panto Jr. “Turning them into inviting spaces where residents can come together to enjoy being outdoors, as well as the opportunity to create community programming at them, will help develop a sense of community among neighbors. We welcome and encourage all city residents, especially those living near the parks, to share what they want to see these spaces become.”
The visioning process has a bilingual hub of engagement at www.eastonpocketparks.com. Residents can participate in an online survey for individual parks or all seven parks as a whole. The site also offers opportunities for public comment, guides to each pocket park, as well as interactive contests such as a Photo Scavenger Hunt or drawing a Dream Park. Entrants to the contests can earn a chance to win a gift certificate for ice cream at Faouzi’s Talk of the Town in West Ward.
The City of Easton commissioned Omnes, an Easton-based landscape architecture and planning firm with studios in the Simon Silk Mill, to lead the three-month planning process. Omnes is a design studio practicing in landscape architecture, urban planning, and art. Established in 2019, the studio of seven is designing a wide range of civic and institutional projects within the Lehigh Valley. They also practice nationally, including similar park master planning efforts in Winooski, Vermont and Winchester, Kentucky.
“As Eastonians, we are honored to facilitate this community conversation,” said Omnes Principal Laura Stedenfeld. “These are small but powerful spaces that offer everyone a chance to enjoy the delights that nature brings. Our studio’s name literally means ‘everybody together,’ and it is also our mission. We want to hear everyone’s voice reflected in this plan. This is a chance to form the next generation of public space in Easton.”
The City also tapped the nonprofit West Ward Community Initiative to help with the community outreach efforts since several of the parks are located in that neighborhood. WWCI, a program of the nonprofit Greater Easton Development Partnership, surveyed the neighborhood in 2018 as part of building its West Ward Neighborhood Plan. In that survey, reactivating underutilized and creating more green spaces was a common theme among the responses.
“We want this process to be community-driven to figure out the best use in our neighborhoods,” said Amy Boccadoro, Manager of WWCI. “We heard from neighbors that they want more pocket parks for recreation, so now we’re giving the community the chance to be heard. What do you want in your backyard? This is your community. We want your input.”
In addition to the website and online survey, Easton residents will have the opportunity to offer feedback about the parks during socially-distanced drop-in sessions to be held at each park in September. There will also be some surprises in the parks over the next few weeks which will be announced soon.
Information Provided By:
Tracey Werner, Marketing Consultant