As part of the larger community outreach efforts for the Dorothea Dix Park Master Plan, youth engagement was identified as a major focal point for Summer 2018. In partnership with Raleigh Summer Camps, the Dorothea Dix Park team conducted onsite ‘X‐press’ camp sessions at all of Raleigh’s summer camp locations. Planning, Development, and Communications staff from the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department (PRCR) assisted with this effort. These were 1 hour, experiential‐based educational sessions that aimed to introduce the work of PRCR in a fun and engaging manner. Camper ages ran from 5‐13 years old and three sessions were conducted three days a week for the months of June, July, and August. Additionally, we worked with YMCA Camps in the months of June and July with children in the same age range along with high school age campers and instructors.
The outreach objectives were threefold; 1) to introduce the work of PRCR, the Dix Park project, and career opportunities in City/Urban Planning, Landscape Architecture, Park Design, Recreation, etc.; 2) to better understand how Raleigh youth use, experience, and view parks and their experiences at parks to better inform future planning and programming at Dix Park as well as ALL Raleigh parks; 3) to provide experiential proof that youth play a critical role in the planning process and that this process can be both FUN and REWARDING.
For the PRCR Camps, programming was split into four activities. Sessions started with an introductory warm-up game to get campers excited and get the ideas flowing. Next, was a station‐based brainstorming activity where the campers discussed and answered questions related to how they experience parks, their favorite and least favorite things at parks, how they feel when they play, and their favorite activities outside of parks. After this exercise, the group gathered for a debrief and discussion of the Dix Park Master Planning Process. This included a brief history of the site, the city of Raleigh’s involvement in the park’s creation and development, community engagement efforts, and future plans for the park. This was followed by time of question and answer where campers were able to ask any and all questions about the process. Finally, sessions were concluded by alerting the campers of their very important role in the process as the EXPERTS OF PLAY and informing them of our need for their help. The campers then shared their unique and creative ideas and desires for the future park design through drawings, park maps, and idea lists and were able to share their ideas with the group if they desired.
Additionally, in partnership with Triangle Area YMCA, summer campers were bused to Dix Park on three occasions. Dix Park city staff broke the campers into groups so that they were able to experience site tours, share sidewalk chalk drawings of their ideas, and complete drawings of their future visions for the park. These campers also saw the sunflowers when they were first beginning to bloom. In all, 260 campers from Kraft, Alexander, Kerr, and Finley YMCA’s visited the park this summer.
By the end of summer 2018, our team with the help of the PRCR staff conducted 26 PRCR Camp Sessions reaching 1244 campers in parks and community centers throughout Raleigh and over 300 campers and staff from area YMCA’s. Data from the activities, including camper’s ideas and visions for the future of the park, were collected, consolidated, and shared with the master plan design team, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, and with park planning and development staff. Additionally, creative and exciting park design ideas were collected to share with the community on social media and at future community meetings.
Thank you to Mickey Fearn for his insight and work in pushing the importance of reaching this demographic in our outreach and to Laura Kordulewski, Gary Claiborne, Lisa Schiffbauer, Emma Liles, Anne Franklin, and the rest our team for their time and support.