Purple Line Drives Community Vision for Long Branch
The Purple Line, a light rail interconnecting MD suburbs and the Washington DC metro, is currently under construction and will put two stations in the heart of the Long Branch community by 2023. The construction of the Purple Line has a tremendous opportunity to bring improvements to the Long Branch community. But the full benefits of that change will not be realized if we don’t have participation from all segments of the community. Long Branch residents have an urgent need to put forth a community vision for development around the Purple Line stations in Long Branch. CHEER is taking a leadership role in mobilizing the community to develop its own vision for the future of Long Branch. At the Long Branch Week Festival, CHEER and the County Planning Department shared a booth where festival participants could share their vision for the community’s future and administered surveys to 82 participants, as a first effort to begin what will be an ongoing visioning process. CHEER employees, John Brill and Vanesa Pinto, played a leadership role in preparing the booths and bringing folks to the booth. This is just the beginning of a three-step process. The first step is to conduct an inclusive process in which community members develop shared goals for future development. Second, CHEER will select indicators of progress and use community-based participatory research to establish baselines that can be used to measure progress toward fulfilling community-defined goals. Finally, community members will participate in formulating strategies and specific development ideas. With years of deep experience in the community offering outreach and referral for services; providing empowerment and leadership development training; and youth development programs, CHEER is the only community-based organization that can bring all participants together without its own agenda that distracts from the goals of community members. The Long Branch Vision committee will continue this process and build on the work of prior years in which community members articulated a vision of a community that provides affordable housing for all income levels; preserves and sustains independent locally-owned businesses; and creates an inclusive, welcoming, vibrant, and attractive community space where people can meet, play, work, learn, and celebrate together.