Park project gets national attention for UNCC Graduate

Charlotte Observer
South Charlotte News
Sunday, October 19, 2014

Photos Courtesy of Dylan McKnight.  Dylan McKnight, second from right, and Rickey Hall, third from right, receive an award from the N.C. Chapter of the American Planning Association President John Morck, left, and exiting president Bejamin Hitchings for their work on the Reid Neighborhood Park.

Photos Courtesy of Dylan McKnight.
Dylan McKnight, second from right, and Rickey Hall, third from right, receive an award from the N.C. Chapter of the American Planning Association President John Morck, left, and exiting president Benjamin Hitchings for their work on the Reid Neighborhood Park.

Dylan McKnight didn’t get involved with the Reid Park Neighborhood Park project for recognition.

He got involved because he wanted to help the neighborhood fulfill its 23-plus-year desire for a community park. But that led to something more.

McKnight has been awarded the 2014 Marvin Collins Outstanding Planning Award in the graduate student project category for his Learning Participatory Planning and the Reid Park Vision Plan. He received the award at the annual N.C. Planning Conference Awards Luncheon at the Durham Convention Center on Oct. 2.

McKnight, 36, began working with the Reid Park Neighborhood Association in June 2013 as his capstone project while earning a master’s degree in urban design and community planning from UNC Charlotte. He was introduced to Reid Park by his adviser and geography professor Dr. Janni Sorensen.

Reid Park is one of five neighborhoods she partners with as UNCC’s Program Director of the Charlotte Action Research Project. That program works with neighborhoods to create coalitions that implement structural improvements.

Sorensen suggested McKnight, who lives in the Steele Creek area, work on the park project because he took a graduate course on community planning that she taught with Dr. Jose Gamez.

“Dylan displayed real interest in social justice work and had great people skills for facilitating work with neighborhood residents,” Sorensen said. “I felt this was a great match between a pressing neighborhood need and a student’s opportunity to learn from neighborhood residents.”

Sorensen said she was impressed with the quality of his work, so she nominated McKnight’s project for the award, which is given through the N.C. chapter of the American Planning Association.

Courtesy of Dylan McKnight. Here's one of McKnight's designs, a pavilion for Reid Park Neighborhood Park.

Courtesy of Dylan McKnight.
Here’s one of McKnight’s designs, a pavilion for Reid Park Neighborhood Park.

“I am honored .… It lets me know that I am doing the right things for the right reasons,” McKnight said.

Before the ceremony, McKnight also asked that the American Planning Association honor Reid Park for their support.

“In my opinion, you have to get at the heart of a project by building relationships within the community, in order to get what people want and will use,” he said. “Reid Park community members put in the work to make this happen.”

Rickey Hall, president of the Reid Park Neighborhood Association, attended the award ceremony with McKnight and received the plaque on behalf of the community.

“The planning award recognition received for the park planning process is a well-deserved award for Dylan and a well-deserved award for Reid Park Neighborhood Association,” Hall said.

McKnight worked with Reid Park June-October 2013, planning and designing an 18-acre neighborhood park and greenway. The project was presented to Reid Park residents, Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation staff and community leaders in August 2013.

Since graduating in December 2013, McKnight has continued to be a part of the Reid Park Steering Committee. The first phase of the project is expected to break ground in January 2015.

He also has started working as a planning and development associate for Charlotte Center City Partners, a nonprofit, tax-funded planning committee that coordinates the development of Uptown and South End Charlotte. McKnight is working on a revitalization plan for North Tryon Street between Sixth Street and Interstate 277.

McKnight said he owes a lot to the Reid Park community for allowing him the opportunity to work on the park project, which he said gave him the experience he needed to do his current job.

“I always had this feeling inside me that I knew that I could do more for my local community,” McKnight said. “Now, I know I am doing what I am supposed to do.”

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