Local News

Thursday, Jul 05 2012 04:58 PM

Game lets you weigh in on future of Kern County

BY JAMES BURGER Californian staff writer jburger@bakersfield.com

The Kern Council of Governments has turned the future into an online card game.

As part of its effort to comply with state laws that call for a reduction in the distance we travel in our cars, the regional planning agency is asking the public to go online and rank the things they want to change between now and 2050.

The tool it came up with is the Directions to 2050 "game," where players stack cards on a digital table, placing their most important priority at the top and the least at the bottom.

Is a walkable/bikeable community more important than passenger rail or road repair? Should the communities of Kern County ensure reliable water sources before they create public open spaces? Should run-down homes be revitalized or the core of cities remade with more dense housing and business?

Players can chime in on those options at www.directionsto2050.com.

Then they can see how their responses tracked with the whole survey and with people in their zip code.

Choices are organized into groups that tackle topics like transportation, energy and infrastructure.

So far, survey respondents have listed revitalization of rundown neighborhoods and business districts, fixing roads and improving the water supply among their top priorities.

The zip code issue is important, said KernCOG planner Becky Napier, because KernCOG is trying to help Kern's 11 cities and the county of Kern understand what their residents want.

But ultimately the survey is focused on meeting state mandates.

"The whole goal is to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions between now and 2035," Napier said.

The results of the online game -- and similar exercises conducted at a number of workshops around the county earlier this year -- will be combined with a 1,500-person formal phone survey to guide the next part of the Directions to 2050 project -- another round of community events.

Ultimately the information gathered will be used in KernCOG planning and in the work being done by the member cities and communities to neet mandates.

"We use it to educate our member agencies -- the cities and the county. We feel it's important to get the buy-in from the public," Napier said.

So far a few hundred people have visited the website and at least 60 have played the game.

Napier said she hopes a lot more people will get involved in describing how they want Kern County to tackle energy conservation, air quality improvements and making their neighborhoods more human-centered.

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