It's time for you to shape Olympia's destiny

Olympia officials will hold a series of neighborhood forums to collect comments from residents on what they want Olympia to look like in the next 20 years.

It’s a terrific opportunity for public involvement, and a great way for citizens to help mold the future of the capital city. We encourage Olympia residents to spend an hour or two over the next month in the company of their neighbors to collectively shape Olympia’s destiny.

Want more neighborhood parks? Let your voice be heard.

Want to see the Percival Landing boardwalk extended to the tip of the Port of Olympia peninsula or along West Bay Drive? Now is the time to speak up.

Do you support the City Council’s quest to bring more market rate housing downtown? If so, or if not, now is your opportunity to influence public policy on housing and zoning issues.

The community forums are being sponsored in the context of updating the city’s comprehensive plan — a process that will take two years. City leaders use their comprehensive plans as a blueprint or overriding vision for what they hope to achieve.

The comp plan is the document that captures the heart of a city — its commitment to public safety and a high quality of life.

It’s imperative that the voice and vision of the general public be reflected in Olympia’s plan.

Keith Stahley, director of Olympia’s Community Planning and Development department, said the forums are intended to mix people up so they can talk to people they might not interact with on a daily basis. He said participants will be invited to participate in small group discussions with a goal of finding common, recurring themes and topics. The mission is to narrow the scope of work on the comprehensive plan to specific topics.

The city’s comprehensive planning process also must tackle emerging problems, such as how to plan for sea level rise from global warming or meet downtown housing goals when many Olympians are concerned about tall buildings allowed to rise on the isthmus.

Those who are unable to attend one of the community forums can comment on a special city Web site, www.imagineolympia.com. Even after this round of public forums is finished, more public sessions will be held after the city’s work plan is determined.

This is the first time since 1994 that Olympia officials have had an intensive update of the comprehensive plan. The plan, which by law must be revisited every seven years, has had amendments over the years, but this is the first substantive revision in years.

The revision offers Olympia residents a golden opportunity to shape the city’s future. It’s an opportunity residents are encouraged to grasp.