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Homer Library Western Lot “Place Making” Workshop

KBBI’s Emilie Springer shares some of what happened at a Sunday workshop regarding the Homer Public Libraries western lot.

In a long workshop held at Homer Public Library on Sunday March 20th, about 20 Homer residents from various organizations or personal interests and expertise in local and natural history of the area met to talk about the western lot, mostly undeveloped at this point, at the far end of the library parking lot. Efforts to enhance the site have been in envisioned since the early 2000’s with funding constraints until the Friends of the Homer Public Library received a grant from the National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program (RTCA). Once established, a community team was created and this March workshop was hosted in partnership with American Society of Landscape Architects volunteers Peter Briggs and Elise Huggins.

The day involved several tasks but to share the general process I sat down with Briggs and Huggins to explain how the tasks of the day went.

Elise Huggins started with this explanation, “we did a Traditional landscape architecture process for design for developing Concepts. We started with a site analysis site inventory which began with a site tour walking getting the whole group to walk around and map for themselves what they thought was important and what they saw. Then we came up with programming details. We started to get people to think about what activities that could occur on that project? Then we broke for lunch. And then after lunch we came back; and a key thing someone might mention is an activity such as, “I want to watch a dance performance,” but then a good thing to get into is understanding how that activity is delivered. So, asking people what do they want to feel or what should the experience be like and then slowly get into what they need in order to enable that. So, “sitting areas” is a good example. We always should have a place for people to sit down. So: it's comfortable, it's got a good view, it feels good and then it gets into the point where people start to say: “well, I need a chair to sit on or we want 10 chairs.” Then we move from that into people planning out what they wanted within the park so finding places for each of those activities and starting to describe what form that place might be for that activity. “

I think one of the best points of this workshop was the interaction that happened between so many people, you know, switching between groups people just exchanging thoughts and coming up with different solutions.

Who were the groups of people involved? Examples include: youth services librarian, Friends of the Homer Library board members, representatives from organizations all over the community such as Sprout, Homer Trails, Homer Seed Garden, Kachemak Heritage Land Trust, City of Homer Parks and Recreation and Homer Chamber of Commerce, local historians, teachers from various public schools and Kenai Peninsula College, parents, and others.

With an extensive informational packet on the site encouraging consideration of broad land-use and community context of the service area including the general ecosystem qualities, plants, landscape, birds and mammals, trail systems, access and connectivity and other features related to age, cultures and movement ability—generally, the consideration of equity of public spaces. Participants received a brief introduction from Cheryl Ilg, President of Friends and a general outline to the process of the day, we started by “site mapping” the lot. Taking a blank map and walking the gravel trail through the semi-cleared forest, down the Poopdeck street edge of the end of the site and then back along Hazel avenue behind Safeway to reconvene in the library.

In break out groups, people shared observations and recorded them on a larger group map that are then presented to the full audience. Here are a few examples of what we talked about, the background noise is loud because there are 4 tables close together:


“The plant survey I did was in the fall. So everything is dead. I mean, you know, there are and I would see you know raspberries or salmon berries are probably raspberries and you know that type of stuff so a lot more has got to be done. There's got to be Nettles out in there and all kinds of things. So, you know, I don't think there's any Baneberry out there, but main Berry is there it will come up in the summer and that's highly poisonous. That’s certainly one to watch for.”

Signage and QR codes

“But, some could be combined, you know find creative ways to have one sign talk about the culture and how to berry pick and safety,” said one woman. Another pointed out, “if we're doing QR codes then they can get additional information and I think part of the idea what the QR code wasto connect people with different places in town, too. You want to know more? Go to the Pratt Museum or Islands and Oceans.”

Other discussion topics included: picnic tables and eating areas, educational/ lecture areas, possibly covered space, stage or performance space, statues, quieter, possibly reading areas and garden space.

Lizzy Dean with the National Park Service RTCA program talks about what happens next in the process.

“Well, now we go back and Peter and Elise work their magic a bit pulling the ideas together. And then the planning team goes back and figures out the best way is to engage different members of the community to get additional input and start refining the ideas and making sure that it's really representing what community members want to see. I think that was a really great take home from today was even it just kicked off this morning with someone spoke about their vision for it was a place where you could pass on legacy is make sure the next generation that it was a value to them the idea that it's a place for everyone and reflects everyone and it's a place. I like the whole day the whole day idea people say you go to the library. So because of the park of that's different things to do is that it just becomes much more that you get a book you go out to the park. You read it, you watch your kids play. It’s a nice community place.”