Blogging for Engagement in College Park

Can a blog help bring new participants to the planning process? We’re not sure, but we’re trying. Two recent articles describe the progress we’ve made since launching Rethink College Park six months ago. The first is from today’s edition of The Diamondback, the campus student newspaper.

When then-graduate student Brian Carroll defended his thesis on redeveloping the Knox Box area last month, he never expected the debate to travel beyond a committee of professors.

But once the local development blog Rethink College Park got wind of his work, posting Carroll’s drawings and ideas to revamp the aging neighborhood populated with students, the comment section came alive with interest. The attention highlighted the push for student housing development downtown and the propensity online forums have for facilitating discussion, but Carroll expressed surprise at the reaction.

“I think the thing that they did was pull it all together,” Carroll said of the Rethink College Park editors. “I could’ve completed my thesis and put it on the shelf in the library, but that got it some publicity.”[…]

But if the interest in Carroll’s work once posted on the Internet and the exchange of ideas since the blog’s launch are any indication, Internet discussions could be the future of public discourse here. That doesn’t mean city council meetings will ever cease, but council member Bob Catlin said with his constituents becoming increasingly busy, communicating with them electronically has become a major convenience.

> Diamondback: “City officials, students take talks to the Web

Second, this article co-authored with the site’s other editor, David Daddio, recently appeared on the website Campus Progress. It offers a good overview of the project and the context here on campus.

” … Our single-minded focus on helping transform College Park into a great college town has led to discussions on the site about a host of progressive issues … With many institutions interested in building or expanding college towns near their campuses, students are in a unique role to ensure the development agenda includes what they value, whether it is sustainable design, affordable housing, socio-economic diversity, or the protection of small businesses. We believe students should be actively engaged in the design of their campuses and towns, and a website can be an effective tool to build a group of like-minded students and share knowledge about what is happening in your community. … “

> “From Parking Lot to College Town?

Author: Rob Goodspeed