BOWIE – Bowie is gearing up to go green. At its Feb. 1 meeting, the Bowie City Council heard from representatives from the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) and consulting firm Doo Consulting on the ongoing process by those two groups to formulate a sustainability plan for the city. Doo Consulting, owned by […]
BOWIE – Bowie is gearing up to go green.
At its Feb. 1 meeting, the Bowie City Council heard from representatives from the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) and consulting firm Doo Consulting on the ongoing process by those two groups to formulate a sustainability plan for the city.
Doo Consulting, owned by Lorraine Doo and her husband, is the lead consultant on the community engagement aspect of the sustainability plan. The goal is to hear from as many community stakeholders as possible in these early stages of the process to create a plan that is unique to Bowie and captures the needs and desires of its residents.
“I always think about who’s not at the table, because those are just as important as who comes to the table. It’s critical to get them there. It’s the hardest thing to do,” Doo said.
The firm has held several focus groups around Bowie, most recently with members of the Environmental Advisory Committee and city staff. They have also spoken with the Chamber of Commerce and distributed a survey among community and business groups, which Doo said drew 350 resident and about 25 business responses.
However, she also acknowledged that “success never actually goes the way we think it does because people don’t actually work the way we think they do, so there’s an awful lot more that actually has to be done because we’ve had setbacks.”
Based on the meetings she has had so far, Doo said the sustainability plan could include provisions related to bio habitats, water, waste reduction and recycling, education initiatives, community engagement and the city’s weekly farmer’s market. She presented the council with a collage of images related to those areas.
“It looks really busy because sustainability is a busy thing,” she said.
The community outreach phase of the process is not complete, according to Doo. A large-scale event called Imagine Bowie is scheduled for Feb. 13. She hopes it will draw in a broad, diverse group of community stakeholders to express their ideas and vision on the green future of the city.
“Basically, what we do is we get as many people together as we can and we put out ideas and document those ideas and solutions and focus on what’s positive about that,” she said.
Melissa Lindsjo, a sustainability planner with M-NCPPC, said Imagine Bowie will be a four-part event. First, participants will think about what they’d want the city to be like in the future. Then, they will devise specific ways to achieve that, including beginning to design a prototype or model on how to bring that vision to life (third step). The final step would be to think about logistics, like the timeframe and cost of the project or projects they envision.
“It’s about starting very abstract and very positive at the beginning and then taking those positive ideas and narrowing it down,” she said.
She also revealed M-NCPPC has not used this particular community engagement strategy in the past, but it is very interactive and hands-on.
Doo asked the council members to help publicize the Imagine Bowie event among their constituents. She also said the firm is looking into more advanced social media outreach, potentially including a partnership with the University of Maryland School Of Design.
Council members also had ideas of their own to share with Doo. Councilman Isaac Trouth asked if their outreach efforts had included the homeowner’s associations in the area. He said the organizations’ websites often list information about board meetings, which Doo could attend to involve those groups in the process.
“A lot, well, some of the homeowner’s associations, have common areas and we want to make sure we’re going green (there),” Trouth said.
“We don’t know enough yet about what those relationships are,” Doo said. “It’s one of the areas we think there should be additional emphasis on.”
Mayor G. Frederick Robinson said “the city takes this very seriously.” As evidence, he pointed to the city’s plan to build a solar panel array on a property on Central Avenue.
“This is a good way of letting people in the business community know they can see, not only is it a good thing to do (for the environment), but one site will generate about 60 percent of our total consumption,” Robinson said.
According to Robinson, it will also save the city $375,000 per year on energy costs
“You all have a very strong history, actually, of doing environmental planning. You have infrastructure, you have trees, renewable energy plans,” Doo said. “But this is your city, after all, so what is it you might think about doing to get (more) people who are interested to the table?”