San Bernardino County, California
In 2016 and 2017, Michael Baker partnered with San Bernardino County to assist 52 unincorporated communities in creating grassroots-driven, holistic community plans to help them chart their own future and galvanize local support, volunteers and implementation efforts. Known as the Community Plans Continuum, this large-scale effort helped these communities address issues such as growth, economic development, workforce development and education, infrastructure, community health, parks, environment and natural resource issues, tourism and community organizing.
As one of the largest counties in the U.S., with diverse ecosystems including the San Bernardino Mountains and the Mojave Desert, engaging each unique community in preparing these plans was a vast undertaking and required careful planning to ensure that each plan catered to each community’s needs.
Communities were divided into one of three categories depending on the planning effort required. This helped to govern the complexity and number of collaborative workshops held for each community that took citizens through the planning process where they worked to craft their plan. Workshops, interviews and field work were conducted in one of the communities each day to learn the culture, people, assets and challenges within each community. In addition, each community had access to an online website to follow the progress of their plan and provide input.
Michael Baker utilized an interdisciplinary team of planners, public engagement experts, economists, finance experts, landscape architects, scientists and engineers, combined with County staff, to engage the public, help each community craft their plan and provide the technical expertise to ensure that plan objectives were achievable and could be implemented. Our team oversaw six groups of plans based on the different geographies of the region. This organizational structure helped to ensure consistency and unique content based upon each community’s vision.
San Bernardino County is now establishing an implementation program addressing technical assistance, stewardship of each plan, identifying community implementation champions, connecting with local, state and federal resources and aiding each community to take control of the destiny to which it aspires. Communities have already begun to organize, prioritize and implement their plans.
“The most important outcome of this project has been the establishment of a new level of trust between each community and county government through collaborative engagement and a comprehensive community-building/planning process.”
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