El Instituto de Planeacion para el Municipio de Colima (IPCo), translated as The Planning Institute for the City of Colima, has developed and continues to implement community engagement demonstration projects in the city. These projects form an integral part of the new participatory planning methodology that is increasingly guiding the municipal planning and development process in Colima. This community-based approach emphasizes the importance of "true" participation by community members. Residents, neighbours, community leaders, local youth and children are directly involved in the process, from the outset to project implementation. It is believed that this approach facilitates the development of a sense of ownership and pride in the community, social cohesion and integration as well as highlights the importance of public participation in municipal planning and politics. The first project of this kind, a pilot project of sorts, was lead by a past SCI intern, Emma Cohlmeyer. This preliminary project involved the community-guided re-design for the revitalization of a local historic park, Las Huertas del Cura.
A personal reflection
Emma began the participatory process with community members in the neighbourhoods surrounding the Las Huertas Park in February of 2010. This process consisted of asset-mapping and vision-mapping workshops, community meetings and reviews, events and celebrations as well as the painting of a large mural, which showcased the final park vision. The enthusiastic and continuous engagement by community members and local youth was integral in facilitating a shift from the traditional planning process to one which considers the local community to be the experts of their space, community needs and visions for the future.
Emma was fortunate to extend her stay at IPCo and was able to be a part of the first phase of implementation in the federally-funded three-phase park implementation and revitalization. In total, more than 400 community members were involved in the process, with half being local youth and children.
The participatory process of Las Huertas was an influential and important demonstration project, both for IPCo and for the future of innovative planning projects and processes in Colima. This project set a precedent and really sparked a new beginning in sustainable planning practices in the city.