Jean Ann Lawson

Carrie Peterson
Resource Development Manager
Department of Parks and Open Space
Eugene, Oregon

Favorite Music

Huge Prince fan, “revisiting the classics,” eg, Purple Rain.

Challenge

The last update to Eugene’s comprehensive park plan had been in 2006, and since then concerns arose about community centers and pools built in the 60’s that were dilapidated, as well as about vandalism and illegal camping. The Department needed a roadmap for new 10-30 year priorities, and wanted the opinion of as many members of the community as possible. Town halls and surveys didn’t work for residents not inclined to attend meetings or fill out forms.

Solution

Carrie realized that the best way to get quality information from these sources was to bring surveys directly to them and make them fun. So her team bought a trailer that looked like a Volkswagen bus (for $9,000, purchased from Dub Box USA in Oregon), and filled it with games, a bicycle-powered music box, a printer with solar generator, and a cooler stocked with ice cream provided by So Delicious of Springfield.

“Little Red” was used to collect feedback from more than 4,000 residents over the course of two summers. Responses were compared with a statistically valid phone survey with similar questions and yielded similar results. But the conversational piece of the interview from Little Red provided critical insight into the values behind the survey responses. Moreover, the team targeted certain residents more and mapped out visits by Little Red to particular concerts, retail parking lots, parks, and bike paths. The team made over 30 visits in the first summer, talking at each stop to anywhere from 20 to 300 people.

“By the next summer, people knew who we were and what we were about. They were looking for the bus and seemed excited to meet Little Red,” Carrie says. “That ambassador piece was amazing and something we didn’t anticipate going in.” People were likelier to open up to conversations over ice cream on a hot summer day or during a round of corn hole while listening to their favorite music.

Lesson Learned

Be persistent. Trying something new may meet resistance. The ability to convince leadership that there was real value in gathering face-to-face information was a challenge. Yet Carrie points out that creating a way to hear from your citizens without adding barriers is not a new concept: “It’s really just back to the basics, if you think about it.”

Carrie’s Personal Background

Born in North Carolina and raised in Eugene, where Carrie now raises her own three daughters. Graduated in 1990 from Lane Community College with degree in business.

Carrie’s Job

In 1994 she was one of 250 applicants for a receptionist position with Eugene’s Public Works Department. Over time she fell “madly in love” with Parks & Recreation and today leads community engagement, outreach, planning, volunteer and event management, partnership development, resource development and advocacy.

What She Listens to Commuting

“I love podcasts. This American Life is essential.”

Startling Facts

Carrie is a fan of “oddball sports,” and was able to discover her hidden talent as a trapeze artist at a Club Med on vacation recently. “I was thrilled to learn I had a natural affinity for the trapeze. Who knew?”

Contact Info

Carrie.a.peterson@ci.eugene.or.us

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