A studied approach to community engagement

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City’s assistant planner prepping data for use in future projects

By Gene Sears

A graduate student project in community planning may have far-reaching and beneficial impacts on Fort Lupton, an added bonus from one of the community’s planning staff.
    Amy Wilson, assistant planner for the city, splits her hours between work and school, while she earns her master’s degree in urban and regional planning.
    “In addition to my position with the city as part-time planner, I am a full-time graduate student,” Wilson said. “This isn’t part of my position, I am doing this in addition as a project that developed out of my graduate program.”
    As a component of her community processes development class, Wilson entered into research studying the community.
    “I thought, instead of giving my time and research to someone in Denver, I might as well give it to Fort Lupton.”
    For qualitative data, Wilson held three community engagement meetings, with each session increasing in citizen turnout.
    Now completed, Wilson intends to offer her research to the city in hopes they can put the data to use. The ball then being squarely in their court, they can decide potential next steps.
    “At this point, I am planning one follow-up meeting to give my report and the results that came out of my report. I plan on using that as a starting point if anyone wants to use this to go forward. If there isn’t any interest, that will be the beginning of the end.”
    But she doesn’t see that happening, based on initial favorable reviews from Fort Lupton Mayor Tommy Holton, and citizens in the city.
    “I think there is a lot of interest. In the community there seems to be a lot of interest, or at least consensus,” Wilson said. “They want something to organize around, things like that. At the city level, you see a lot going on right now, and I think a lot of support.”
    Not wanting to release specific details of her research before formally presenting her findings to the city, Wilson agreed to summarize a portion of her report, which consists of a full 80 pages.
    High on the list of citizen wants in the city is more retail opportunity. More stores, general retail and a more varied selection of restaurants, a slightly more urbanized version to augment the city’s selections.
    “But they also indicated they wanted to keep the historic and cultural aspects intact, which I believe is very important for Fort Lupton, and one on the things that makes us unique,” Wilson said. “To hold on to that value that is so rich here.”
    The best way to accomplish both objectives being resident involvement, Wilson has some ideas to draw input from the community. Toward that end, Wilson thinks a city liaison might be the ticket, someone to pound the pavement and engage the business community and citizenry.
    “Just to get things going, just to encourage the process” Wilson said. “I think at some point, that liaison would back off as things take shape and begin to grow.”
    Another potential opportunity is melding the local chamber of commerce with the multiple economic, development and community organizations in the city into a cohesive force.
    “That was something I really highlighted,” Wilson explained. “We have all these great entities like the chamber and different groups, but there is such a disconnect between them. I think if the different organizations could work together, all that energy would be huge. It would really promote the city.”
    Wilson’s recommendations underscore her enthusiasm for Fort Lupton, and the residents that she has enjoyed interacting with.
    “This community is so great, and everyone really just wants to see it succeed, and the people that are here, succeed,” Wilson said. “Me too.”

Contact Staff Writer Gene Sears at