In the recent past, the city of Hercules, California, faced a major political upheaval when a mayoral recall shook the foundations of local governance. This incident created a lack of trust between the city government and its residents. One of the key challenges the city faced was addressing the pressing needs and pain points within the community. The city recognized the necessity of better engaging with its residents to understand their concerns, expectations, and aspirations. The idea was to initiate a comprehensive community evaluation and survey to gather insights and pave the way for a more transparent and collaborative future. As a starting point, and despite limited resources, the city needed to develop a clear vision for its park system, which had been neglected over the years. Hercules aimed to identify priorities for park improvements and secure funding as part of its Parks System Master Plan.
The Zencity Solution
To address these challenges, Hercules turned to Zencity. Hercules integrated Zencity into its Parks System Master Planning, a critical initiative for the city's future. This endeavor included an award-winning park built in the late '70s, which had lost its luster due to a lack of upkeep and maintenance. Zencity provided a standalone website for the Parks System Master Plan, creating an informative Engage page that hosted survey information and enabled two-way interactions with the public on their vision and desires for the park and its amenities.
For a city not accustomed to this level of engagement, Zencity played a pivotal role in Hercules' outreach efforts. The city organized virtual town halls and pop-up events and engaged its senior center to connect with residents. The public responded enthusiastically, with over 2,000 participants engaging in the process, making it an invaluable tool for keeping the community's pulse.
Hercules commenced its engagement journey with Zencity in March 2022 and has since gathered a wealth of insights and feedback from its residents. The comments and suggestions collected from the community have been instrumental in shaping the future of the city's park system within the framework of the Parks System Master Plan. To ensure a diverse range of voices, a steering committee comprising representatives from various city commissions was established to assist with public outreach.
The outreach process enabled Hercules to understand where the community saw the priority for its parks post-Covid. Unexpectedly, residents highly valued open spaces and natural environments, such as the connectivity of trails, which wasn't initially a priority for city staff. This low-hanging fruit became a win-win solution as it required minimal investment but garnered significant community support.
As the city progresses to the prioritization stage of the Parks System Master Plan, it is equipped with a comprehensive understanding of what its residents value most. The data collected through Zencity will guide the city council in making informed recommendations and crafting an action plan for the park system. With the project scheduled for completion in October, Hercules is on the path to making critical decisions about budget allocation and delivering on the residents' aspirations.
Download the presentation from "Open Doors, Open Data: Winning Public Trust by Running Transparent, Data-Driven Project Planning" at ICMA, with Dante Hall.