by M. André Primus
This fall, Highland Planning organized and staffed an EcoDistrict Launch event with our partners at Greentopia to celebrate the completion of the EcoDistrict Plan. The event marked the start of the project moving from planning to implementation. The NYSERDA-funded EcoDistrict Master Plan will provide a framework for the High Falls Neighborhood to move towards ambitious environmental and social justice goals. It was one of my favorite projects that I have worked on to date at Highland Planning. It is great to see the EcoDistrict moving forward.
We advertised the event using digital engagement on Facebook. Using our organic-reach-focused strategy, we reached over 20,000 people and interacted with over 1,500 people. We also used a Facebook event to connect with vendors, non-profits, and volunteers who were interested in being involved in the project. Some event participants, like the wedding party that jumped in on a game of four square, happened to be in High Falls on the afternoon of Saturday, October 7th.
The EcoDistrict Launch event had two areas, an EcoFair and the EcoDistrict Launch Project. The EcoFair was designed to highlight the EcoDistrict as a destination and help people envision a revitalized neighborhood as enabled by the plan. We had copies of the plan, summaries, and renderings to help attendees catch the vision, and we were on site to explain the plan and the process in depth. The event featured vendors and organizations from inside the EcoDistrict, such as Airagami and Monroe Community College, combined with eco-focused groups from around the region, such as the Stormwater Coalition and the Monroe County EcoPark. In addition to the engaging and educational exhibits presented by our partner organizations, the event featured vegan food and compostable utensils from Marshall Street Bar & Grill food truck, electric vehicles to test drive, a station explaining the new Zagster bike share system, face painting, chalk drawing, live music, games with Rec On The Move, a magician, and more! Overall, our 30 exhibitors, 10 vendors, three performers, eight activities, and six goats added up to one great Saturday for the approximately 600 attendees to the event.
The Launch Project, the first of many events in the EcoDistrict, initiated one project in particular, the revitalization of a greenspace beside the Genesee River gorge which is envisioned to become a part of an “EcoLoop” walking trail. A herd of goats were brought in to clear out the invasive brush along the trail, fossil-fuel-free, in preparation for the human volunteers. On the morning of the event, about 20 volunteers gathered in the EcoDistrict to clean, weed, and plant along the trail.
Part of our event was live streamed on Facebook Live, drawing over 125 more views. By taking a non-traditional approach to a public meeting format, Highland Planning and Greentopia were able to engage a much larger part of the community in a much more meaningful way. This robust and varied engagement sets the stage for a very successful implementation of their EcoDistrict Plan.