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Fort Polk plots a vision for sustainable development

The Urban Collaborative

Fort Polk is creating a quality-of-life blueprint that will guide the Vernon Parish Army base on future developments and priorities.

More than 100 Fort Polk soldiers and people who live or work on base participated in an intensive one-day visioning workshop Monday, led by Eugene, Oregon-based The Urban Collaborative. The firm has consulted on master planning and urban design issues for dozens of military installations worldwide. The Urban Collaborative's chief strategic officer Jill Schreifer said these long-term planning sessions and surveys are not related to base operatives.

 “We’re not talking about what new units we’re going to bring or what missions might be here - what might be activated or deactivated," Schreifer said, between break-out sessions. "We’re really focusing on anything you can see on a map -- facilities, streets, parks, open spaces. We're thinking about what’s our vision for Fort Polk in terms of a community development.”

Before the automobile, according to Schreifer, military bases of all sizes were entirely walkable. Buildings were clustered together. Today, like many cities, she finds that bases struggle with sprawl. With sustainable development in mind, she said many bases are now falling in line with what cities have done in urban design – creating more compact spaces, while still respecting force protection rules and buffer zones.

“These are common issues that everyone wants to think about how they can do better. Fort Polk is definitely on the leading edge in the Army in terms of planning and thinking about the sustainability principles being incorporated into their master plan design," Schreifer said.

The Urban Collaborative has 60 days to create a draft vision report, based on the surveys and findings from Monday's visioning workshop. The ultimate goal, Schreifer said, is to come up with a planning vision that the commander will approve and one that will guide Fort Polk for decades to come.