Public Comment: Community Engagement Concerns
As contentious as the potential impact of introducing synthetic turf with forever chemicals, as well as other contaminants, is for the dog park, a topic of equal concern is the lack of a consistent, equitable process for community engagement in this project and other projects across Cincinnati Parks. Standardized best practices acknowledge that "work with community members reflects a commitment to a comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically underserved [and] marginalized.”* The National Recreation and Parks Association provides its own Community Engagement Resource Guide for Creating Equitable Access to High Performing Parks as a recommended structure for park professionals "to work collaboratively with community members to utilize their park spaces as local solutions for their community".  

After declining to pursue installation of a dog park in Dunore Park at the outcry of nearby residents who forced Parks engagement on the issue, in July 2021, the Cincinnati Board of Park Commissioners evaluated a list of seven (7) possible sites for a dog park in the Clifton area. Not only was this list developed without input from the surrounding neighborhoods, it omitted several possible locations without reason given, and it was pursued without asking the surrounding neighborhoods key questions: what are your priorities for parks in your community? are we considering this amenity through an equitable framework across our park system? are more urgent needs for public safety and accessibility being met first? 

*Community Voice is Expertise, Urban Institute; Lauren Farrell, Mel Langness, Elsa Falkenburger, 2/19/21

Upon completion of this form, notice will be sent to below listed community leaders with your responses.
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In my own words, I feel that my voice has been excluded from organized public discussion designed to provide actionable feedback regarding the proposed dog park in Burnet Woods as a result of the Park Board’s violations of best practices in community engagement in the following ways:
Best practices in Community Engagement call for centering the voices of individuals who will be most directly impacted by the issue at-hand. The Cincinnati Board of Park Commissioners has remained unengaged and has even ignored residents of multifamily housing directly next to the selected site for a dog park in Burnet Woods. The Park Board’s decision to ignore those who would be most directly impacted by a dog park in Burnet Woods is failure to professionally engage the community on this issue.
The City of Cincinnati has neighborhood councils for the purpose of ensuring a link between citizens and decision makers. From the city’s own website: “These organizations [i.e., community councils] ensure that neighborhood development responds to the needs and goals of its citizens.” Despite the two community councils whose boundaries include Burnet Woods having passed resolutions against the dog park, the Park Board is choosing to use a heavy-handed approach to the development in violation of the entire premise behind our city having community councils. 

Similarly, Cincinnati Parks has Park Advisory Councils (CPACs), to, according to the Cincinnati Parks Board website, “build and maintain public support for Cincinnati Parks by providing feedback to the Cincinnati Park Board and exchanging and sharing information and providing mutual support between CPACs.” Park CPACs often donate hundreds of volunteer hours to maintain park spaces and host community events. In violation of its own stated purpose for CPACs, the Cincinnati Park Board has ignored multiple resolutions passed by the Burnet Woods Park Advisory Council (BPAC) in opposition to the proposed dog park in Burnet Woods. 

As it relates to community engagement on the proposed dog park in Burnet Woods, and in addition to the points above, the Park Board of Commissioners has further violated the public trust in numerous ways, including:

·       masquerading an old survey about a proposed dog park in a different Cincinnati park as community engagement on a dog park in Burnet Woods

·       using accessibility as a red herring to advance the dog park in Burnet Woods before determining if the amenity is desired by the community in the first place

·       ignoring other, decades old infrastructure and accessibility needs in Burnet Woods in order to prioritize the pet project of a dog park in Burnet Woods

·       excluding various groups and stakeholders, including the most vulnerable, from engagement and decision making

·       mocking the community engagement process itself and those who are demanding best practices in community engagement

·       boasting that as Commissioners they will use their power to make amenity-siting decisions for the community because they don't believe in the community

·       greenwashing the clear, evidence-based ecological destruction the dog park will cause

·       undermining the legitimacy of process by ignoring the fact that two sitting Park Board Commissioners have a conflict of interest by residing near enough to the proposed dog park that their private property values could materially benefit from the development

I acknowledge that upon completion of this form, an email containing responses will be sent for public record entry to the Cincinnati Board of Park Commissioners, Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval, and the current members of Cincinnati City Council Healthy Neighborhoods Committee: Jan-Michele Kearney, Reggie Harris, Scotty Johnson, and Victoria Parks. A Summary of responses may be compiled and provided to City Council also. A copy will also be sent to Preserve Burnet Woods. *
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