Park District's new format for site management plans

Chicago Park District site stewards received a document that is to be the standard format for all natural area plans. In fact, on Friday Februaty 3rd 2012, Charlotte and I attended a meeting with Zhanna Yermakov and Jason Steger of the CPD regarding setting a timetable for the completion of this document. If you read on, you'll see that it's rather large, based on the Table of Contents. In fact, we covered everything except for Chapter 8, the management chapter, which we'll go through at another meeting within the next two weeks.

The amount of detail envisioned is voluminous, and the blank format runs 6 pages. In fact, we were shown a draft version of the plan for another CPD site, completed by an outside contractor, that was about an inch thick. Surely over a hundred pages. That particular document is not ready for publication, but it was quite impressive.

So the point of this posting will be to inform those interested, including other stewards, how this process actually works. There is much misinformation, and otherwise a lack of information, about this planning document. I was perhaps a bit less in the dark about it than many, but still wasn't at all sure of the real reason for the push to complete these plans. I was very concerned about who was actually going to write the plans. While having someone with little or no previous involvement with the sites actually writing it might be necessary in some cases, that would not work well for either the Jarvis site itself or the volunteers there. I was fortunate to be able to talk with Zhanna directly after another meeting we both attended, which helped to clear things up regarding the point of having these Natural Area Management Plans and the purposes they will serve. I'll discuss that in more detail later. What's important now is to get this accomplished. We set ourselves a deadline of June 1st for the draft copy, and July 1st for final publication. I hope we can meet that deadline, as this plan will function as the foundation of our work going forward. And we're looking to take some major steps forward this summer.

This posting will be in a "book" format. Much of the data requested is not something the Park District has currently, at least not for a site like Jarvis. One could start this year to acquire baseline data, for comparison in the coming years, but we have much data in one form or another that goes back to the beginning of the project circa 2000. As is my usual procedure, I'll be jumping around and working on different parts, skipping some until I have time to organize and post the info. A lot of this work will be recording and updating information in an existing database, and there is a lot of updating that I have yet to do.

While recording the information in a database is really the best way to do it, in fact, in this document, it will be presented in spreadsheet format. Of course, an interactive format would be better for the web, but this needs to be published as a paper document. I look forward to being able eventually to have this Plan be an actual web application on this site, which we'll be able to update as needed during and after workdays, based on what we've done and our observations of the results. If we're successful with it, this interactive Plan application could serve as a model for other projects.

So rather than just blogging about ideas for Jarvis, I'm going to attempt to fill in appropriate sections of this document. Much of it will be new, but I'll also incorporate the ideas already published in the previous posting "The Next 10 Years". While I'll be primarily writing some of the sections myself, with input from my co-steward, our associate stewards, and volunteers, other parts will be very much a collaboration between the stewards and the District staff. There you'll only be seeing my suggestions at this point. The final draft will undoubtedly be different.

There are several problems starting an endeavor like this. The first is the amount of time it demands. As you'll see, the level of detail requested is really on par with a scientific experiment - no, more like multiple experiments that are to be run concurrently. So part of the reason I'm doing this document publicly is to encourage feedback, and part of it will be to see how long it actually takes. I'll time myself when I work on it, and put a total at the end and add to it, because this document is not going to be written in sequence. For the record, I'll deduct the 4 hours it's taken to write (and rewrite) this part and format and post the rest, because that's not part of completing the plan per se. And as I've already written some of it, I'm only including the time it takes to revise and edit it to fit the current format, as I don't really know how much time I spent on that. So, here goes...

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