I took Euline Myrick to the Tiki Hut at O'Leary's last week. We talked about a meeting that Euline invited me to attend the previous week at the Newtown Rec. Center. This meeting, half-celebration and half "next steps," was the culmination of several years of work aimed at turning a retention pond into a community recreation asset - Lime Lake.
What is remarkable about this is the combination of past and potential. The story of Euline and the North County Community Organization is one of resolve. Frequent and exasperating bureaucratic barriers are now largely in the rear-view mirror; the opportunity lays in front of all the parties for the citizen-inspired and citizen-led transformation of this neglected lake to also be citizen-controlled. The norm would be for the institutions, many of whom were the very ones that generated resistance and inertia, to now assume control and credit.
It can take a different course. With an abiding commitment to paying attention to each of the next steps and to reflecting with one another along the way, this project and permanent community asset could also be an example for how citizens and institutions can alter the typical dependency relationship that often leads to multi-party disappointment.
What will it take? Maybe it will require vigilance and open conversations about the mutual desire for citizens to continue to be the decision-makers and for there to be a sense of ownership that is not an illusion but a deep reality. The institutions are not serving "customers" at Lime Lake, they are working with citizens who are producing their community. If things go well, the institutions will be thought of and will think of themselves as second investors, performing those tasks that institutions do well and leaving to citizens the knowledge that Lime Lake is their brainchild and they are the first investors; it is THEIRS.
Congratulations to the citizens of Lime Lake, the North County Community Organization and to my friend, Euline Myrick, a graduate of the Grassroots Leadership Initiative.