Meet RARE AmeriCorps Participant: Jenny Dimsho

Jenny Dimsho, RARE AmeriCorps, Resource Assistance for Rural Environments

Jenny Dimsho received her Bachelor of Science in Community and Regional Planning from Missouri State University. As a student, Jenny interned with the SW Missouri Council of Governments where she helped develop the 2012-2013 Human Service Transportation Plan for the 10-county region. After attaining her Bachelors Degree, Jenny decided to move to Portland, Oregon in order to establish residency for in-state tuition. Jenny plans to use her year with  RARE AmeriCorps  Program – Resource Assistance for Rural Environments to improve her planning skills through first-hand experience while allowing her to further define her career path. Following her year with the RARE Program, Jenny plans on attending graduate school to further her studies in planning and community development.

Jenny is placed with the City of St. Helens where she will assist in the creation of two important planning documents that will improve the attractiveness and livability of the St. Helens Community. Specifically, Jenny will update the 1996 Parks Master Plan to integrate connectivity of non-motorized access with emphasis on connecting public spaces and access to the Columbia River waterfront. Additionally, the Jenny will assist in developing the The Hwy 30 Corridor Plan; an equally exciting project that will ultimately redefine the appearance and function of the Hwy. 30 corridor through St. Helens.

St. Helens is located in southeastern Columbia County, on the Columbia River, approximately 30 miles northwest of Portland, Oregon. Near the riverfront, the Old Town portion of St. Helens features a Nationally Registered Historic District encompassing 10 blocks, which includes residences and civic buildings dating back nearly a century. Currently, the community is in transition shifting from the historic “mill town” to now determining its future. One defining characteristic is that 70 percent of the workforce commutes outside the County to work. The City’s emphasis has been to preserve the small town character, charm and quality of life.

Organization: City of St. Helens
Community: City of St. Helens
Population: 12,900
County: Columbia

Learn more about the St. Helens Community and Jenny Dimsho

Our CPW team is energized about this project!

Parking Ashland Oregon Community Planning WorkshopThis past summer I left my home state of Pennsylvania to attend the University of Oregon in pursuit of a Master’s of Community and Regional Planning (MCRP). After obtaining a B.S. in Geoscience and a B.A. in Geography, graduate school is providing me the opportunity to develop the skills and knowledge to help rural communities blend policies that help develop their economy, while simultaneously working to preserve the natural environment. I’m particularly interested in developing policies that recognize the connection of terrestrial and aquatic environments within watersheds, and how people interact and rely upon these natural systems.

With one term finished in my graduate education I am now embarking on a new project with the city of Ashland, located in Southern Oregon, through the UO’s Community Service Center. I will be working in a team with four other first year graduate students over the next six months, examining Ashland’s downtown parking management and multi modal transit strategies. As a planning student, I’m excited to apply my education and work with community leaders in identifying different policy alternatives.

Ashland is a vibrant city with just over 20,000 residents that hosts the Oregon Shakespeare Festival every summer, which draws 400,000 visitors. This poses a unique problem for parking management in the downtown area.

Our team is energized about this project and we’re eager to have the opportunity to gain professional experience in our first year of graduate school. We recognize that there are challenges associated with managing a downtown parking program. On one hand, parking is vital to downtown economies, while on the other hand automobile-dependent transportation is often subsidized by incentives such as free parking in downtown areas. Americans have become increasingly reliant on automobiles for transportation, and allowing free parking encourages people to drive to their destinations. This over reliance on the automobile has contributed to obesity, overconsumption of fossil fuels and has had a negative impact the environment.

Another reason we’re excited about this project is the opportunity to research new and innovative ways cities around the country are managing parking and look at alternative transportation options viable for Ashland. One way to manage downtown parking is to reduce the number of cars travelling there by encouraging carpooling, biking, walking and taking the bus.

Most of all, we are excited to work with such an engaged and active community that has identified issues important to them, and are eager to develop solutions. We look forward to the opportunity to suggest new parking management policies that promote multi modal transportation options as well as accommodate the residents and visitors of Ashland.

Stay tuned for more to come on this project. . . .

Eli Tome Community Planning Workshop CPW

About the Author:  Eli Tome is a first year MCRP student trying to find the time to balance a busy graduate student schedule and still have time to play in the mountains on the weekends. I also work as a Geographic Information Systems GTF for the Social Sciences Instructional Labs on campus.