Seventh-graders dig into Bonanza Park development
They are tasked with creating plans for the prominent project
For years, city officials and developers have pondered an ambitious redevelopment of Bonanza Park that could change the landscape of Park City.
Now, a group of seventh-graders is getting in on the action.
Through the end of May, students at Park City Day School will work in teams to create their own plans for the parcels of land owned by the Bonanza Park Partnership, which for years has envisioned redeveloping a large swath of the area into a shopping, dining and entertainment district. The students are tasked with taking into account factors such as community priorities, city zoning codes and financial feasibility to ensure their plans are as realistic as possible.
Angela Moschetta and Sarah Berry, the founders of Future Park City, a local organization aimed at fostering civic engagement, conceived the idea after learning about a similar project the students participated in that required them to design future cities. Moschetta said taking the idea of that project and localizing it to address an important, large-scale development seemed like an obvious fit.
“What was clear to me was that these particular students have a foundation in exploring city planning and codes and some of the other very real factors that one needs to consider when evaluating development and urban growth,” she said.
The idea was also exciting to Charlotte Friedman, a science teacher at the Park City Day School, but she was uncertain whether the students would go for it. She feared they might be burnt out after the future city project, which spanned much of the school year. However, they were quick to jump at the opportunity.
Friedman said it will be valuable for them to take what they learned during the future city project and apply it to their home town. She hopes one lesson in particular — the importance of being an engaged citizen — lingers long after the Bonanza Park development is finished.
“For the students themselves, it will help them to be more civic minded and they’ll want to be more involved in their community as they get older,” she said. “… To let students know at such a young age that they can make a difference and they can be part of the process helps us to grow citizens that will continue to be involved.”
Throughout the assignment, the students will meet weekly with developers and city officials involved in the development to go over the important factors that affect the project. Moschetta said the goal is to infuse the discussion surrounding Bonanza Park with new voices — ones untainted by preconceived notions about the project.
“We often see the same people showing up to meetings and debating the same issues,” she said. “What happens is we all kind of get caught up in our own perspectives and our own limited way of thinking. This really brings the benefit of something fresh and creative. After one session already, I am so convinced that seven weeks from now, our minds are going to be blown by these seventh-graders’ way of looking at our world.”
Beyond simply sparking discussion, however, elements of the students’ plans could be included in what the development ultimately becomes. Moschetta said that would prove that engaged citizens — even ones who aren’t old enough to drive — can shape the future of their communities.
“If viable ideas are presented, our collective hope is that the developers adopt some of them, and the city as well,” she said. “If there are ideas that are great but are not really feasible, given our current land management code, there’s an opportunity for the city and community to look at how we might change that going forward to make some of these better ideas viable.”
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