Horizon 2020 committee hears community’s concerns for the future

Agriculture, sustainability and climate change were among the topics discussed Monday night at two public sessions hosted by Lawrence and Douglas County’s Horizon 2020 Steering Committee.

The committee, which is made up of community, government and business representatives from throughout the county, asked for the public’s input on the city and county’s long-range and comprehensive plan.

Two drop-in sessions were held at City Hall on Monday evening for members of the public to learn about the steering committee’s past 18 months of work and to make suggestions for the future.

A finalized version of the committee’s comprehensive plan will not be finished until Aug. 10, said Lawrence City Planner Jeff Crick.

Among the community members who attended, longtime area resident Carol Gillmore thinks agriculture is something that should be heavily considered in the long run.

While there are many large farming operations in the area, often the smaller farmers don’t receive the attention they deserve, Gillmore said, especially considering farmers’ considerable contribution to the local economy.

“We need aggregation, storage and distribution of the products the farmers produce,” Gillmore said.

In addition, Gillmore urged committee members to consider water as a limited and precious resource for the future.

Dale Nimz, chair of Lawrence’s Sustainability Advisory Board, urged the committee to acknowledge that the next 20 years will likely be nothing like the past 20, 40 or 60 years.

Creating sustainable and efficient jobs that are reliant on local resources and industries should be a priority, he said.

“We have a lot of talent in the city, we have Kansas University, a lot of skilled researches here and we have a lot of innovative people in our community, and when you put those ingredients together, I think we could do well as an incubator of green industries, green jobs and green occupations.”

Between the two sessions Monday night, more than a dozen area residents addressed the committee about its comprehensive plan thus far, and made suggestions for the future.

Lawrence City Commissioner Mike Amyx, who sits on the steering committee, said the group will gather again soon to discuss the comments and suggestions and make any necessary changes to the plan.

“The plan should affect and does affect decisions that are going to be made for the community,” he said. “It’s so important to the community and the county for the next 20 years, and longer and we want to make sure we get it as right as we can.”