APA PA Chapter News: July

The Latest News from PA Chapter of APA…

Arts, culture, tourism, and parks are important, but sometimes overlooked, aspects of our communities. One role of planners is to remind public officials of the importance of these topics for both economic development and community building purposes. This month, we focus on these topics with overviews of public art and planning, parks and recreation, architecture and design in the Incan empire, and the fine art of media relations. Enjoy!

Training Opportunity: Intergenerational Community Planning & Placemaking
July 10 – July 12 – Lancaster, PA

1-Day Symposium with 5 CM Credits, pending  approval (this day precedes the July 10-12 2024 Mid-Atlantic Intergenerational Conference).

Planners, architects, and municipal staff, as well as community-based organizations that cut across disciplines focused on education, health and human services are invited to join.

More information available online.

Training Opportunity: Mid-Atlantic Collaboration: Planning for Clean Water Webinar Series

The Mid-Atlantic Planning Collaboration is pleased to announce a webinar series exploring the vital connections and partnerships between planners and the health of our water resources and the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

Each webinar will feature local planners who are engaged in initiatives that serve their community and further water quality and living resource goals. Each will also include resources available to planners that may be relevant or helpful. AICP certificate maintenance credits will be available. All webinars will be recorded and posted to the Mid-Atlantic Planning Collaboration’s YouTube page.

Training Opportunity: Northwest 2024 Free LTAP CLASSES

July 11th– Full Depth Reclamation ( 8am – Noon)

For more information and to register, contact Jessica Carroll at 814-677-4800 x109 or by email at jessicac@northwestpa.org

APA PA Conference 

The  Annual Conference, Investing in a Dynamic Culture of Planning, will be October 13-15, 2024 at the Erie Bayfront Convention Center in Erie, PA.

The Annual Conference provides a unique and effective opportunity to showcase your work and capabilities to planning professionals and policy makers from across the Commonwealth. It’s also one of the ways to support planning in Pennsylvania by providing valuable networking, education, and development for planners.

The sponsorship brochure will allow you to choose the marketing opportunity that best suits your needs. 

Our conference committee are working diligently to plan a creative and innovative event, one that will pair both educational and provide networking opportunities. We look forward to including you in the continued success of the APA PA Annual Conference!

Planning Webcast Series

Earn over 50 CM credits each year online – at no cost to members of participating organizations that support the Planning Webcast Series. Webcasts take place live on Fridays from 1:00 – 2:30 PM ET and are worth 1.5 CM credits (for live viewing only) unless otherwise noted. More information online.

Communication and Membership Committee

We are always looking for volunteers to contribute articles for our monthly E-News and LinkedIn page. It’s a great way to share your work and local news with a statewide audience! Authors are credited with a by line and tagging on social media, if applicable. If you are interested or would like more information, please contact Amy Evans or Amy McKinney.


The Pennsylvania Municipal Planning Education Institute will be offering courses online and in person. Please check the website for the most up to date schedule.

Opportunities for Giving

Each year the Chapter offers a scholarship to support individuals seeking funds for academic degree programs, internships, and professional development activities.  If anyone would like to contribute to the Chapter’s Scholarship fund, donations can be made here. We accept all major credit cards, or you can send a check. Please make your check payable to “PA Chapter of APA Scholarship Fund” and mail it to P.O. Box 4680, Harrisburg PA 17111.

Upskilling: Effective Outreach Through Media Literacy
By Craig S. Beavers

We live in a world dominated by media influences. From news articles to social media, people are only a keystroke away from accessing current information about local, regional, and national events. As planners, we are not immune from the prevalence of media, as our projects, policies, and plans are often covered in news outlets or on Facebook pages. How the work of a planning department or specific planners is portrayed depends on your ability to engage with media to fine-tune your messages, ensuring nothing is simplified or misreported. In today’s digital age, effective communication is crucial for planners, and it’s important to strengthen our skills with media literacy.

Media literacy is the ability to engage constructively with media, including social media, as both a consumer and a subject. Knowing how to effectively engage with media empowers you to:

  • Craft compelling stories and visuals that highlight your project’s impact,
  • Build relationships with media representatives and secure coverage,
  • Leverage social media platforms to engage with diverse audiences,
  • Develop persuasive presentations and public speaking skills, and
  • Enhance your organization’s image.

It cannot be stressed enough the importance of developing high-level media and communication skills as a planner. To help educate officials, the American Planning Association developed the Planners’ Communications Guide, which provides a thorough and interactive overview on developing media literacy. Below are a few key topics discussed in the Guide.

Developing a Message

The purpose of all communication is to convey some kind of message. For planning, our messages are the key points we want our audiences to hear, believe, and remember. When done effectively, a message can engage and educate listeners while providing a lasting impression on that topic. It can be thought of like a thesis statement in a high school paper, where your message provides your main argument or statement. It should be followed by proof points, or information that supports your message. For example, if your message is, “Active transportation promotes healthy lifestyles,” then a proof point could be, “Those who bike or exercise for 30 minutes a day have longer lifespans.”

Your message and proof points should be tailored to your audience to engage their interests and concerns. A wonderful way to practice crafting messages is to create elevator pitches for a project or plan you are working on; imagine giving a 30-second pitch to the general public, then imagine giving the same pitch to an elected council. What changes between the two? What interests are similar or different between your audiences? Learning these slight differences can help planners become more effective when developing their messages.

Working with the Media

As planners, especially in the public sector, we will inevitably be contacted, interviewed, or quoted by the media. This could be traditional outlets, like newspapers, television, or radio, or it could be more modern forms like webpages, social media, or video vloggers. Regardless of the form, planners must be prepared to respond and mindful of how it is portrayed. Our most critical communication tools involve knowing how to interact with journalists, either reactively or proactively.

An average request for information, such as a reporter calling about a new development, is a type of reactive media. While you are not obligated to reply immediately, or even at all, you should make a good faith attempt to reply in a timely fashion for their deadlines. Having a positive relationship with the media can enable you and your organization to build a strong rapport and outlet for communication. When replying to the media, keep the following points in mind:

      • Reporters often have a preconceived idea of a story before they contact you for information. Positive or negative, it is important to keep this in mind when you respond.
      • You/your organization also have a preconceived idea on how you’d like to be portrayed. Try to share information you want to disseminate in your answers.
      • Practice! It is always helpful to prepare an elevator pitch on a project to share with the media. If you have advanced notice of an interview, prepare a list of key points you want to convey beforehand.
      • If an interview starts to ask questions you’d rather not answer or you do not feel comfortable with, you don’t have to answer. Instead, you can use bridging techniques to steer the conversation back to a focus area you are more comfortable to talk about.

You can engage with the media proactively to share information with the media. Press releases, letters to the editor, and direct emails can get a reporter’s attention and provide them information about prominent issues. Developing a good relationship ahead of time increases the likelihood of your message being covered. Reach out to reporters ahead of time to introduce yourself and get to know each other; news reporters make a living by finding sources of information, and a dependable planner can be a valuable partner for a reporter.

Social Media

Planners have traditionally relied on town hall meetings, public hearings, and printed materials to engage communities and gather feedback. While these methods are still important, the advent of social media has revolutionized the way planners interact with the public. Social media platforms provide a powerful and dynamic tool for urban planners to reach a broader audience, gather real-time feedback, and foster a sense of community involvement. Incorporating social media into urban planning is no longer optional; it is essential for effective community engagement in the digital age. With thoughtful strategies and a commitment to accessibility and transparency, social media can significantly enhance the way urban planners connect with and serve their communities.

Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn offer planners the ability to reach diverse segments of the community. These platforms are widely used across different age groups, socioeconomic statuses, and cultural backgrounds, making it easier to disseminate information and engage with a wider audience. Compared to traditional outreach methods, social media is also a cost-effective way to engage with the public, reducing the need for printed materials and reaching more people without the constraints of time and location.

Before diving into social media, planners should develop a clear strategy on how to reach their target audience. What is your communication goal? What social media platforms are members of your target audience currently using? Different platforms are used by varying demographics, i.e., TikTok for younger audiences and Facebook for older audiences. Additionally, equity and accessibility considerations need to be made. This means using captions, providing translations where necessary, and ensuring content is accessible to people with disabilities.

Conversations are taking place with or without you. Planners need to take part in social media, or they will be left out of the conversation. Social media requires active management. Regular monitoring and prompt responses to comments and messages are crucial to ensure civil conversation and transparency. While social media is a powerful tool, it should complement, not replace, traditional outreach methods. Integrating social media with public meetings, surveys, and printed materials ensures a comprehensive approach to community engagement. Utilizing several media outlets to reach the public can help eliminate unequal access to information, opening conversations to different people with varying experiences and ideas.

Public Art and Planning
By Kate McMahon, AICP

Public art is any work of art situated in or visible from a publicly accessible space. This may include visual art such as murals or statues or performance art such as musical or theatrical events. Public art is often used for placemaking and to bring communities together. Visual public art is especially effective in revitalizing formerly blighted areas. It can also be used to engage citizens from a wide variety of racial, ethnic, and social backgrounds.

Public art has been an important feature in two of the 2023 Great Places in Pennsylvania, Downtown Pittston and the Arc Community Greenspace in Meadville, which were both recognized in the Great Transformations category. In both places, visual arts such as murals and art installations helped to bring the community together and transform blighted areas into gathering places. Learn more about utilizing public art in planning here


Planners on Vacation: Visiting the Puma City & Other Adventures in Incan Landscape Design
By Amy Evans, AICP

Tawintinsuyo at its peak, with the boundary of its four quadrants. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user L’Americain under license.

Inca cosmology divides the universe into three: the celestial world signified by the condor; the realm of earth by the puma, and the underworld by the serpent. Imagine then being Pachacutek, the ninth Sapa Inca of the Cusco chiefdom, at the start of his reign in 1438. Over several decades, Pachacutek and his successor expanded their territory from the valley around Cusco to encompass much of western South America, forming an empire known as Tawantinsuyu.

Two planners in front of the notable double zig zag walls of Saqsaywaman. Cusco lies in the valley, hidden from sight here, between the walls and the mountains in the background. Photo courtesy of the author.

As you may imagine, as Tawantinsuyu grew, Pachacutek felt that his capital of Cusco should reflect the wealth and importance of the territories it ruled: not only the four parts of Tawantinsuyu, but the entirety of the cosmos itself. His plan was a creative reshaping of the settlement to reflect the outline of a puma. Saqsaywaman, a set of large ceremonial structures on the hill above Cusco, was built as the head of the puma. A new square, called Hawkaypata, sat at the belly (some say heart). People of higher social class lived between Hawkaypata and Saqsaywaman, while others lived in the animal’s hindquarters. Four roads leading to the four quadrants of the empire met in Hawkaypata.

A map of Cusco for tourists illustrates the shape of the puma.

The Tullumayo and Saphi Rivers form the back and legs of the puma, respectively. The Q’orikancha, or sun temple, was the religious center of Tawantinsuyu and represented the puma’s reproductive organs, a creative force. The Inca viewed the Q’orikancha as lying at the center of 41 ceques, or sacred pathways, that radiate across Cusco’s surrounding valley. The ceques defined the location of numerous wakas, or shrines and other sacred sites.

Modern Cusco with Ausangate Mountain in the background. The city is now home to almost 500,000 people. Photo courtesy of the author.

I’m sad to say that before visiting, we didn’t realize just how closely the Inca forged connections between what they built and the natural and spiritual realms. Throughout our stay in Peru, we learned that many large structures and numerous small details are aligned to sacred symbols, sites, and settlements, as well as the movements of the sun, moon, stars and the Milky Way.

One of the things we did know before arrival is that the Inca had no written language and did not make use of the wheel. Another hallmark of the Inca quickly became clear: They flourished in incredibly difficult terrain (spend any time in Peru and you realize much of the country can be classified as difficult terrain). This was evidenced by our visit to Winay Wayna, the ruins of an agricultural settlement perched on earthquake-prone slopes that would cause modern farmers AND developers to seriously reconsider their plans.

Winay Wayna’s agricultural terraces are near vertical in some places. Photo courtesy of the author.

Winay Wayna, besides being incredibly beautiful, is a master class in design and construction. Agricultural terraces that harness altitude-driven microclimates sit to one side, while residences and religious structures sit to another. Rock-lined channels supply water to homes, fountains, and terraces. It’s here that we saw smallish donut shapes carved out of stone, created to hold thatch roofs onto stone buildings. In other words, the Inca were clearly both geniuses in design and familiar with wheel shapes. In my not-so-scientific opinion, if the wheel had been useful in their environment, the Inca would have used them. Instead, they relied on foot travel with sure-footed alpacas as pack animals. This approach allowed them to maximize the productivity afforded by the eastern Andes in tune with their beliefs, in communities they could efficiently govern in times of peace and defend in times of war.  

Winay Wayna’s residential and ceremonial areas. Photo courtesy of the author.

Sunset at Machu Picchu illustrates to me why the Inca may have held alignment with the sun so highly. Photo courtesy of the author

Winay Wayna is relatively close to Machu Picchu, probably the most well-known Inca site of all outside of Peru. Although information about Machu Picchu is sparse, current thought holds it to be a seasonal estate built by Pachacutek. Machu Picchu’s physical location was likely chosen because of its alignment to other sacred sites in the area, as well as how the rays of sun at sunrise on the winter and summer solstices both land within the Torreon, a sacred ceremonial structure at the heart of Machu Picchu. Walter, our guide there, noted that it would have taken many years for observers to determine this location, given there are two chances per year to observe and clear weather is far from a guarantee at either time. Like many Inca sites, Machu Picchu is incomplete because Tawantinsuyu was still expanding in the 1530s, just as invaders from Spain arrived. Inca construction commonly took decades to complete in the best of circumstances and, as disease decimated the population and the Spaniards moved forward with conquest, construction often came to a halt while defense and finally survival became the focus.

While immediate ramifications for Tawantinsuyu were severe, Luis, our guide in Cusco, captured the long-term effects of the Spanish invasion on Peruvian culture quite well: “People like to ask me if I am Incan or Spanish. I tell them I am the child of winners and losers.”

Celebrate National Park & Recreation Month
By Betsy Logan, AICP

As planners, we recognize the significant role of parks in enhancing a community’s overall health. Parks and green spaces help reduce air pollution, heat islands, and stormwater runoff and offer recreational opportunities. Living near a park can increase property values, reduce crime rates, lower mental distress, and improve life satisfaction. With July being Parks and Recreation month, it’s a perfect time to delve into the world of Parks and Recreation in Pennsylvania (PA).

PA Parks & Recreation Highlights

  • The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and the Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Society (PRPS) launched the Good for PA website (goodforpa.com), which supports 6,250 local parks and 12,000 miles of local trails and serves as a powerful advocacy platform for local parks and recreation programs.
  • In 2023, Governor Shapiro created the Office of Outdoor Recreation to grow, unite, and strengthen PA’s outdoor economy and issued the Growing Outdoor Recreation for PA report and roadmap.
  • The PA outdoor recreation economy is the 8th largest in the country, creating 164,000 jobs and adding $17 billion to PA’s economy.
  • DCNR is currently working on updating the Outdoor Recreation Plan, which is required every five years.
  • The 7.8 mile Mount Jewett to Kinzua Bridge Trail in McKean County was named the 2023 Trail of the Year by the PA Trails Advisory Committee.
  • Eagle View Park in Dover Township in York County was awarded the Green and Sustainable Park Award by PRPS

This year’s Parks and Recreation Month theme, “Where You Belong,” celebrates the many ways park and recreation professionals across the country foster a sense of belonging in their communities. They provide welcoming and inclusive programs, essential services for all ages and abilities, and safe, accessible spaces to build meaningful connections. In addition, on Friday, July 19th, Pennsylvania is celebrating Park and Recreation Professionals Day. Consider honoring those who work tirelessly behind the scenes to provide high-quality programs, parks, and public spaces.