Tuesday, December 23, 2008

More on WOW

Nikki, who was involved in the development of the World of Wonder playground, shares some thoughts about how the original process went down ...

Ok, I won't leave it at my previous comments, then. I worked on one of the other components of the park when WOW was raising money and so on. We all participated in the community visioning process in which we allocated funds to resources and so on. And the top priorities never included WOW. If I recall properly, the top priorities were always dog park, skate park, and either frisbee golf or zero-rise water play area. WOW was never in the top three. Which makes a lot of sense, because WOW is cool, but is not really as novel as depicted. For example, there is a public playground just a mile or two away. Whereas the other facilities would be unique (everything but frisbee golf, which I think was never seriously considered because there are several others).

Never mind, said the WOW folks, we'll raise our own money. Which they did fairly well in the initial stages. But then things got ugly. More money ended up being designated to the ball parks than was originally anticipated (because there were some changes in material costs for infrastructure -- lights, parking, etc.). And suddenly the other groups were getting tipped off by those who were running the project that WOW was in fact campaigning to receive more money, which they wanted to see taken from the other initiatives. Which the other initiatives did compromise on, but not without a lot of entitled, nasty attacks on their constituent groups.

Both the skate park (which was planned to be roughly double its current size) and the dog park (which originally had way more people-centric amenities) were scaled back, and more money was given to WOW. But what annoys me is the attitude that underpinned the request for more money. It was very much like they were entitled to WOW and their cause was unimpeachable because they were representing the children, and the other groups were full of shiftless, selfish criminals who just wanted to take from children for our own selfish interests. When in fact we were all doing what we are entitled to do as citizens to participate in the process of creating the park. And we all pay taxes. And both the skate park and dog park benefit a much wider cross-section of the ACC citizens than does WOW.

As far as I'm concerned, in other words, WOW wasn't ever a very honorable or nice or realistic group, and it's no surprise that they take no responsibility for the long-term maintenance of their project.


Blogger Brian said...

These are interesting comments, but can it really be said that a skate park and dog park "benefit a much wider cross section of ACC citzens than WOW?"

Are there more dogs than kids in ACC? More dog owners who will drive to a park than parents with children?

How many skateboarders are there in Clarke? Are 8,000 per year visiting the skate park? And I would argue that families with children cut pretty much all across the cross sections of citizenry in ACC. And from what I hear about the ACC skatepark, families with children learning to skateboard are a little nervous about taking their kids out there anyway.

I'm not defending WOW here -- this thing seems like a mess. But I think it is very fair to say that WOW has certainly become a destination for families from across ACC and surrounding communities, and has certainly been a good thing for thousands of families.

9:07 PM  
Blogger Nicki said...

*Can it be said that..."benefit a much wider cross section of ACC citzens than WOW?"*

Yes, it can. Your comments are about volume, primarily -- but WOW serves children of a certain age group and to some extent within a certain proximity, while the skate park and dog park serve a much more diverse constituency. Both are heavily used, and have served as the base for events which both serve the local population and contribute to economic development by attracting regional interest. Because they are unique, they draw a fairly diverse geographical constituency, as well.

I agree that WOW is successful, in general -- the volume is impresssive. But it wasn't ACC's decision to create it for a variety of reasons. It didn't place high on the public's list of needs (which, it bears noting, were formulated from months of public input and multiple visioning sessions attended by hundreds of citizens), and it is not unique. Plus, there were other forms of demonstrated demand that ACC wished to meet. In other words, ACC didn't ask for it or control it -- it makes perfect sense that they're now not happy about being obligated to pay for things they would not have done.

ACC thought it was cooperating with a group of citizens to build something that would otherwise be a low priority at minimal cost to the citizens. Which, if it were true, would be a great gift. But during the process the cost skyrocketed, forcing the priority projects to be built in diminished form (SPOA) or to lower standards (dog park, SPOA -- both as a result lack most of the facilities that would make them highly attractive in hot weather), and four years later $58,000 has been added to the tab. So now, in retrospect, ACC has effectively been forced to put a lot of public investment into a project that its citizens in general would not have chosen to build.

I want to see WOW succeed. But I am sick of hearing this cast as a gift that ACC is refusing to steward. ACC didn't ask for it, the citizens ended up paying far more for it, and now apparently it's the citizens' job to pay for the consequences of allowing it to be built anyway. Which is not fair, or a good use of public money.

11:58 AM  
Blogger Nicki said...

P.S. I hope it is not getting lost in the comments, but I said early on that some of the supporters are nicer than others. And what I really found impressive and good about WOW were many of the people who worked to pull money together and build popular support. That said, I chose to stop donating to it because of the open hostility displayed to the other constituent groups, the nasty comments diminishing the investment that the rest of us have in this community, and later on the feedback that we were receiving indicating that they were lobbying informally to receive funding allocated to the other projects because they were morally superior. That's unnecessarily personal, and nasty, and doesn't make me or others inclined to help them out.

12:17 PM  

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