Regional and urban planning conference spurs on community building

By in News

As students of the University of Saskatchewan work hard to earn their degrees and become leaders in the community, some believe there is no reason to wait for a diploma to start making a change. To that end, on Mar. 10, urban planners of all disciplines gathered for the Momentum conference to discuss and organize programs aimed at constructing a more positive community.

Momentum 2017, an annual conference centred on regional, urban and community planning, aimed to provide students, academics and professionals the opportunity to participate in community development. In addition to raising awareness for community building, the conference allows those skilled in different disciplines to work together in creative ways to promote a healthy healthycommunities-04community.

Jamie Honsberger, fourth-year regional and urban planning major and conference co-chair, was optimistic about this year’s turnout.

“Momentum was able to significantly increase the number of attendees and was able to provide a wider range of presentations, catering to a variety of different topics that aligned with planning healthy communities,” Honsberger said, in an email to the Sheaf.

This year, the conference, fully titled Momentum 2017: Planning Healthy Communities, Connecting the Pieces, was designed with the grand objective of providing central Canada with more developmental opportunities. The event began with a keynote speech discussing the close relationship between urban planning and public health. This was followed by speeches throughout the day dealing with transportation, crime prevention and sustainable agriculture.

Honsberger believes that the conference is not merely for urban planners or those interested in the subject, but that all students at the U of S have much to gain from attending the conference and taking a more active part in building the community.

“People would be more aware of the components that are associated with planning and should feel inspired to get involved with planning healthy communities. It also introduces and brings more awareness to the profession of planning for those who may not be familiar with the profession or have never heard of it — and hopefully spark some interest in those individuals,” Honsberger said.

Thus, in order to contribute to creating a well-rounded community, organizers of the conference placed great emphasis on bringing in participants from disciplines other than urban planning.

“The interdisciplinary nature of urban planning is a necessity, as it promotes the idea that more professions other than urban, regional, rural planners can contribute to planning healthy communities. The interdisciplinary nature also opens up the conference to a variety of professions and students studying other academics … To take a comprehensive approach to community health, it is necessary to consider all aspects,” Honsberger said.

The speakers at the conference attest to the diversity of disciplines that Momentum promotes. Sessions dealt with a broad range of topics, all geared towards discussing new and innovative ways to better develop the community. Adrian Werner, an Urban Agriculture Program Manager at the Saskatoon Food Bank & Learning Centre, spoke about the importance of food security and nutrition education, and how these factors affect community health.

In another session, Cora Janzen, a kinesiologist, discussed the close relationship between community health and physical health. She argues that factors such as affordable housing, reliable transportation services and a complete neighbourhood all contribute to a person’s well-being.

As Honsberger explains, Momentum’s primary aim is to connect and provide support for those community members with the will to help but who lack the resources to do so. Simply, the conference allows like-minded individuals to gather strength in numbers and act co-operatively.

“Momentum was an enlightening discussion between professionals and students to generate new ideas, and students can take these ideas to their school work [and] early careers and provide new ideas for professionals,” Honsberger said.

Honsberger hopes that students are able to use what they have learned at the conference to become architects of their communities.

“We hope that individuals who attend our conference take initiatives from what they’ve learned at the conference and apply themselves in everyday settings.”

Adrian Aquino

Graphics: Lesia Karalash / Graphics Editor