Hood Park in Derry is being reimagined with wide community input. For the past two years, Hood Park has been prioritized as an area that the Town of Derry would like to revitalize. Hood Park is referred to as a gem in the downtown, but has lost some of its vibrancy. So, the Derry Hood Park Steering Committee was formed over the summer to engage the community around the future of Hood Park.
When Extension began working with the steering committee, we knew that there would be some challenges given the pandemic. However, over the course of several months, passionate steering committee members were successful in collecting input from a variety of community members. We made many adaptations, like foregoing a community forum in favor of engagement tools that did not require gathering in-person.
Engaging the Community
With assistance from Extension, the steering committee selected four different community engagement tools including survey, posters, interviews and postcards. Some tools, like the survey and posters, were available for people to quickly and easily share their ideas. Posters around town were used to promote the project and collect ideas for the future and memories of using the park in the past. Key informant interviews allowed the collection of more in-depth information from a variety of community members. Postcards with an outline of Hood Park provided an opportunity for people to creatively share their ideas through drawings and doodles.
What We Learned
Hood Park is valued and well-loved by members of the community. People like the natural look and feel of the park. It is a place to visit to enjoy the pond, wildlife, woods, relax and appreciate the peaceful and serene setting. There is something for everyone at Hood Park: basketball, hockey, fishing, tennis, walking, riding bikes, enjoying nature, picnicking and playing at the playground.
However, many feel that the park is not as vibrant as it once was, and that the park’s appearance and maintenance has declined over time. Generally, people would like to see more and improved recreational amenities, like more walking trails, upgrades to the playground and courts and seating. Another common theme was improving Hood Park’s water quality for swimming. Many were also interested in additional recreational programs and events at the park. The steering committee and Town of Derry are working to prioritize these ideas and develop an action plan for implementation.
Keys to Success
There were many different factors that helped make this community engagement initiative successful, even given the challenges of community engagement during a pandemic. Here are a few:
- Passionate leaders and volunteers led the process. It was evident that all involved love the park and want to see it revitalized and well-used.
- Many different methods were used for community outreach and marketing. Flyers were distributed around town, a social media campaign was developed and Derry CAM even made a promotional video.
- The steering committee worked to identify target audiences which ensured a diversity of demographics were engaged, from youth to seniors, business owners, residents and visitors.
- A mix of community engagement tools allowed steering committee members to reach many different people.
- The Town of Derry created a website which provided information about the project and the history of Hood Park and Hood Pond. In addition, the website hosted the online survey and shared images of completed postcards to share the ideas suggested.
The steering committee and Town of Derry are working to prioritize these ideas and develop an action plan for implementation. We look forward to seeing a revitalized Hood Park!