Input shapes Hillyard neighborhood group’s plan

Hillyard has a plan, and it’s a detailed one.

For the last four years the neighborhood has been in a community development and strategic planning process that involved anyone who wanted to participate. Thousands of testimonials from neighbors, business owners and visitors have been collected at Hillyard events, entered into spreadsheets, analyzed and organized, and finally narrowed down to a report with 10 focus areas.

It’s the Greater Hillyard-Northeast Planning Alliance that’s been the driving force behind the process. The planning alliance consists of representatives from Hillyard, Bemiss and Whitman neighborhoods, and the report was written by neighborhood activist J.R. Sloan and Larry Davis, a lecturer in management at Eastern Washington University’s Business Resource Center. The Spokane Regional Health District also participated by gathering and analyzing data.

“At every Hillyard event we had a booth out asking people’s opinions about their neighborhood and what they’d like to change,” said Sloan. The theme at the 2009 Chalk Art Walk was “The Future of Hillyard,” a perfect way to get residents to think of what they’d like to see happen in their neighborhood down the road. More than 3,000 observations were collected and every issue addressed.

“The Spokane Regional Health District did the heavy lifting in terms of data processing,” said Davis. “We started out with seven categories, then that grew to 10, and then we found people to chair each of the 10 committees. They sorted through all the input.”

The 10 planning areas are: improving parks and trails; improved housing and commercial buildings; clean and green neighborhoods; public safety; business and job development; transportation and infrastructure improvement; changing the image; expanding educational opportunities; extending services and church involvement; and more effective community organization.

“Some of the categories came together when we collapsed other categories into one,” said Davis. “Working through all the testimonials we could see where the energy was, where the push was.”

Davis and Sloan agreed that there were extraordinarily few sour grapes or nasty comments among the testimonials.

“Some of the best comments came from kids,” said Sloan, adding that a special effort was made to reach out to neighborhood school principals. “I believe we reached all of them.”

Among the many ideas that percolated are: neighbors helping out with park maintenance such as watering and graffiti removal; a cleanup campaign and a plant exchange; developing a minor emergency clinic in the area; a skateboard day and competition; and a booster club for all area schools to support their activities.

The neighborhood study also found more than 15 churches that are all active in the community, said Sloan.

“That really surprised us,” said Sloan. “The churches all have different programs, so now it’s about finding a way they can collaborate better.”

Another priority is to seek representation of the Hillyard, Bemiss and Whitman neighborhoods in places such as elected positions and board and committee memberships.

“That’s about getting organized and seeking influence,” said Davis. “We are starting by recruiting lots and lots of people, to avoid burnout of a few folks doing all the work.”

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