Greater Fulton: Letting The Children Speak

What’s the best part of bringing residents of a community together to talk about the future?

They get right to the point. They’re plain-spoken and blunt. They care – deeply.

As part of our three-month, community visioning effort in the Greater Fulton area of Richmond’s East End, we’ve spent hours brainstorming, asking questions and listening deeply to residents – well over 100 at two community sessions in October, plu s dozens of on-the-street interviews and sessions with teenagers and young children.

Sidewalks. Playgrounds. Better bus service. A place to buy fresh vegetables. An elementary school – heck, any neighborhood school.

These are just some of the things residents say they’d like to have in their neighborhood. Nothing fancy – just the sorts of things many of us take for granted in our own communities.

Okay, some things fancy. For starts, Caliyah wants “a mansion and a million dollars.” She also wants places to play with her best friend.

The work of community visioning is as frustrating as it is affirming. It helps when we have the opportunity to sit on the floor with young people and soak up their perspective on what makes a neighborhood. Almost every single time, it's as simple as feeling safe, and having something fun to do.

As Peter Fraser and I have immersed ourselves in the world of Fulton’s 5,000 residents, we’ve been amazed at the ways in which accidents of design and, worse, decades of neglect, have conspired to leave this slice of Richmond to fend for itself.

Fulton has no library or school or police station or medical facility or grocery store within walking distance. (Well, there’s a Food Lion a few miles down Williamsburg Road across the county line in Henrico – residents walk there frequently because it’s the only place they can buy groceries.)

As we work with residents to complete a community vision for Greater Fulton – and to help design a year-long strategy to make the vision a reality – we’re more excited by the small opportunities than we are by the grand ideas.

With one month left before we pass the plan off to the capable folks at Fulton’s Neighborhood Resource Center and Virginia LISC, we’re genuinely stoked by the emerging vision and possibilities for Greater Fulton.

We wouldn’t be this close to the finish without the residents.