Community members review proposed actions on the Envision Athens draft Action Agenda at an open house taking place at Clarke Central High School on Sept. 28. Of over 100 proposed actions presented, community members in attendance selected the five that were most important to them by sticking orange dots under summaries of the different focus topics. “It seems like a lot of work and thought has gone into developing these issue areas, and it seems to me that (Envision Athens) did a good job,” open house attendant KathyLynne Sanderson said. “There’s a lot (of proposed actions). It’s hard to pick just five with the little dots, but I think it represents good work and good thinking and concern for the community.” Photo by Gabriel Mantione.
Envision Athens held an open house for their recently unveiled draft Action Agenda at Clarke Central High School on Sept. 28.
Envision Athens, a community visionary development effort, held an open house at Clarke Central High School on Sept. 28. Community members were invited to review a set of proposed actions divided into five areas — Place, Prosperity, People, Vitality and Foundations — and help decide which issues should be prioritized.
Caroline Paczkowski is a member of Envision Athens’ Steering Committee, a group of 38 representatives who help to guide the plan development process. Paczkowski emphasizes the importance of community input to Envision Athens’ mission.
“The goal is to develop a common vision and strategic action plan that can guide our community forward,” Paczkowski said. “It really is a collaborative effort between the public and the community and the government and the private entities around town.”
The planning process for the Envision Athens project began back in late 2016, and has since transitioned through multiple phases of community involvement and feedback.
“We’re towards the end of the process. We have these 100+ action items that we’ve narrowed down from thousands of items that came into us from stakeholder meetings and community meetings,” Paczkowski said. “We’re almost at the point where we’ll be developing a plan that will be presented to the public with all of these action items included, but the priorities in a prioritized way.”
KathyLynne Sanderson moved to Athens two and a half years ago from upstate New York. Despite not having lived in Athens for long, she knows what issues mattered most to her.
“I’d like to play some part in the direction of Athens in the future. I think the community should develop in ways the people want it too, that it should express the community’s desires,” Sanderson said. “I’m concerned with people having access to quality food (…) with concern to the whole idea of food deserts and whole neighborhoods not having access to fresh vegetables.”
Community member Tony Eubanks feels passionately about safer alternative transportation. He recounted a story where his daughter had a negative reaction to having to cross Prince Avenue on a bike ride due to busy traffic and unsuitable pedestrian conditions.
“That’s sad, that what is essentially a neighborhood street can be a barrier. Seeing it firsthand, I know there are some places I won’t ride,” Eubanks said. “But seeing places that I won’t let her ride, it dampens her independence.”
Askia Hylton, a sixth grader at Double Helix STEAM School, decided to attend the open house with his mom because he feels youth representation is important.
“I actually had the option to just stay in school for after school, but I should have the right to vote in this. I’m part of the community. I should have a say in what goes on here,” Hylton said.
Paczkowski believes that everyone should be providing input and working together to further the Athens community as a whole.
“I think creating a vision for everyone takes everyone, and we can only move forward if everybody’s involved and working together to move towards a common vision,” Paczkowski said. “I think this process has been extremely important in getting people together and getting people talking about what common issues we have.”