The Dane County Board of Supervisors has launched an independent evaluation of equity and access at Dane County Parks and the Henry Vilas Zoo.
Keen Independent Research, a national equity consulting firm, will conduct the research over the next several months, with a final report due in late summer. The Arizona-based firm will conduct focus groups and surveys to evaluate how accessible and inclusive County parks and the zoo are.
“I’m looking forward to the community engagement on this, and really, truly getting an understanding of who is using (county parks), who’s not using, and how we can make it better,” said County Board Chair Analiese Eicher, who also serves on the Parks Commission.
The process will include in-depth qualitative and quantitative research to form a better understanding, particularly in relation to issues of equity and access, of the demographics of who is and is not utilizing Dane County’s public spaces. Keen Independent will ask local community members and stakeholders for input through interviews, surveys, onsite visits, focus groups, and other means.
The study’s $99,990 cost will come from a County budget allocation for audits and innovations.
“Our parks department has been exploring some of these access questions, as has the County Zoo. And we, as the board, thought this would be a great opportunity to utilize that audit or innovation line in our budget to investigate and to get an idea of where we are, and what we’re missing, and how we can do better,” Eicher said.
Principals David Keen and Annette Humm Keen are leading the evaluation. Mr. Keen has led more than 100 equity studies and has served as an expert witness on the subject of equity programs.
According to a press release from the County Board, the goals of the assessment include gaining a better understanding of the demographics of who is currently using Dane County Parks and Zoo and how they are using these places; gaining a better understanding of who is not visiting Dane County Parks and Zoo and what the barriers are, or if there are other reasons why they are not visiting Dane County Parks and Zoo; and providing specific recommendations to the County Board Office that will remove identified barriers to racial and social equity and access, including access to people of all abilities, at Dane County Parks and Henry Vilas Zoo and strengthen racial and social equity and access to people of all abilities at Dane County Parks and Zoo facilities, lands, properties, and programming.
Community members can provide input on equity and inclusion at the parks and zoo, or volunteer to join an advisory committee or focus group, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 608-205-8444. Additional information will be available at the project website at https://keenindependent.com/danecoparksandzooequity/.