One idea leads to another at Riverview Launch

At Riverview Launch work begins this week on space that will become the new home for Open Roads, a program that teaches young people both how to maintain their bikes and rules for respecting others. And soon renovations office space for the Kalamazoo County Land Bank will be underway.

Open Roads hopes to be in its new space by December and the Land Bank by late spring or early summer of 2015.

Meanwhile, various projects at Riverview Launch have brought community members to the 6-acre piece of property. They have working to create a place for the community at the former site of an abandoned, blighted property that went through tax foreclosure in 2012.

Riverview Launch, adjacent to the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail, connects the downtown to Spring Valley Park, Markin Glen Park and the Kalamazoo Nature Center.

Work accomplished this year on the property makes the most of its natural features. Wildflowers, prairie grass and native plants have been planted. A rain garden has been put in place.

A bee condo, a project of Trybal Revival in cooperation with 4-H and funded by Local Initiatives Support Corporation, has been undertaken in hopes of encouraging native bees.  

Land has been cleared to improve sight lines of the Kalamazoo River that runs along the property. Community gardens and raised beds used by chefs of local restaurants also have been created.

This summer Kalamazoo City Parks and Recreation assisted with games and the screening of movies there.

Recently, community members gathered at the property to consider what else might be done with Riverview Launch. The event was a follow-up to the spring placemaking event, Go Places

There were tours of the property to see the progress that has been made and ice cream to stave off the afterwork hunger pangs.

As the evening progressed, Brian Lam and Dann Sytsema of Improv Effects led the group in a number of exercises designed to generate further creative ideas for use of Riverview Launch and to give examples of ways people can work together when collaborating on a project.

Through a number of improv games participants learned how much easier plans can be made when using "yes, and" rather than "yes, but." The latter tends to put one on the defensive and can impede progress in planning and discussion. "That's a great idea because," was another way of saying "yes, and" introduced that further keeps the conversation moving when ideas are being discussed.

After practicing the improv techniques the participants broke up into groups to come up with ideas for the property. One group wanted to make sure the property was used year round, possibly with a fat tire bike event or a polar plunge. It suggested ways of tying the property in with downtown festivals, the farmers market and various area parks. Programming to draw people to events at the property also were suggested.

Bike and kayak rentals were frequent suggestions. Another group came up with plans that it suggested would benefit the entire community.

Kelly Clarke of the Kalamazoo County Land Bank thanked the participants for their ideas and said that often going into such sessions people spend a lot of time focused on what can't be done. Using "yes, and" creates an environment where some dreaming can take place.

Becky Fulgoni of Landscape Forms who helped organize the event said the evening presented an opportunity to try out using "yes, and" so that ultimately it is not so strange, and the lessons learned can be used in other settings, like work or in other groups across the community.

"There are a lot of things that can benefit from using "yes, and," Fulgoni said.

Writer: Kathy Jennings, Second Wave Media
Source: Let's Do Launch event, Sept. 9, 2014
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