New workshops will pool ideas from around the city

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - From left, Glen Friedman, Nicole Alexander, Tamara Gilbert, Bill Hohensee, Lisa Clifton and Zach Pelz prepare for the first community workshop March 15. As the city works to update its sustainability plan, the West Linn Sustainability Advisory Board is set to host a new community workshop series to help pool ideas from every corner of the city.

The workshops, which are set for March 15, April 19 and May 31, will encourage residents to work together in creating a map of the city’s future plans for energy, water, food and waste systems.

While the city has an internal sustainability committee, the sustainability advisory board was created as a citizen oversight committee to make recommendations and help connect residents with the process. The Sustainable West Linn Strategic Plan was last updated in 2006.

“We wanted to include community input,” said Nicole Alexander, chairwoman of the advisory board. “And not just to get input on updating the plan, but to help implement it as well.”

Alexander and fellow board member Glen Friedman spent about six months planning the workshops, and in October the board hired the Sera Architects firm to facilitate group sessions. The focus of the first meeting on March 15 will be on creating visual “flow maps” of the resources available throughout the community.

“We’ll look at the ecology of the community and see what is available,” Friedman said. “And then use the maps to decide what projects should be pursued.”

The workshops will place a heavy emphasis on “volunteer-driven” projects that could be completed without the city’s help, using the volunteer-coordinated Robinwood Garden as an example. In the months since he started planning the workshops, Friedman has already heard about a number of ideas including a food co-operative, tool libraries and pocket community gardens.

“Part of what’s interesting is that we don’t know what will come out of the meetings,” Alexander said.

A segment of the workshops will also focus on what Alexander refers to as “resiliency” — how prepared West Linn is for natural disasters like flooding and earthquakes, or even a major snowstorm.

“We’re vulnerable as a city partially because of topography,” Alexander said. “Even with the last storm, I went to Safeway (on Salamo Drive) and had never seen it like that.

“If that lasted a week, there would be problems.”

The workshops are free, and Friedman emphasized that prior experience or expertise was not necessary to contribute.

“Not having experience would almost be better,” Friedman said. “Part of the fun is to get input that we don’t normally have.”

“We also want to increase awareness of the sustainability plan,” Alexander said. “And let people know that it’s not just for the city to plan.”

The March 15 workshop will take place at Rosemont Ridge Middle School from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The April 19 and May 31 workshops are scheduled at Sunset Fire Hall from 1 to 5 p.m.

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