Vision 2020 catalyst for big change this decade

Published 10:43 am Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My wife, Nicole, a fitness management instructor in Rochester, didn’t hesitate when deciding if she should join a Vision 2020 project committee; the community recreation center idea seemed to be a pretty good fit for her.

The idea — one of 10 final projects the grassroots group plans to implement by the end of the decade — targets a “year-round recreation center of architectural significance which will be a welcoming place for everyone in our community to meet, exercise and play.” The idea’s vision statement says the recreation campus will have affordable, state-of-the-art fitness facilities such as a family aquatic center, practice facilities and programs supporting healthy living.

That project would be a major undertaking for a city of 25,000, although so would most of the top 10. But then, that’s the point.

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Questions remain about how these major projects will be funded or how much they will cost, but the idea creators — the idea selection committee charged with narrowing the 4,000 ideas to 100 (which actually became 91), and the top 30 to 10 — were specifically told not to worry about that. Their imagination was supposed to take over, and the next group, the project committee — which is looking for as many volunteers as possible — is in charge of making the concepts reality. (To be a project committee member, show up for a formation meeting 6-8 p.m. Thursday, May 3 at Frank W. Bridges Auditorium on the Riverland Community College campus, or contact the Austin Area Chamber of Commerce at 507-437-4561.)

Some ideas are vague, but they are intentionally so. The “education leaders” project, for example, calls for a link between the arts, education, science and business sectors to create a “city-wide learning campus.” No one knows yet what exactly that will entail, but that’s for anyone who wants to join that project to decide.

Remember, this isn’t a government-run project; it has been a democratic process from the beginning. The community submitted 4,000 ideas and voted for the top 30, and the committees are made up of large cross-section of the public.

Whether or not you think the projects are too imposing, most would agree any degree of improvement would be a good thing. These mammoth initiatives, if supported, have the potential to shape Austin’s future.

While this type of grassroots community betterment initiative isn’t unique to Austin, it is unique for Austin. Those interested in making a difference should get on board.

Herald editor Adam Harringa’s column

on business news appears on Wednesdays.