The Textizen Blog

MAR 31 2015

City of Reno Opens Dialogue on Virginia Lake Improvement Project

Virginia Lake

Photo by Alana Reid. Used with permission.

An oasis in the middle of the city, Reno’s Virginia Lake is a popular place for strolling, picnicking, and observing the abundant waterfowl. But in recent years, the lake has suffered from declining water quality and overgrowth of algae.

In the summer of 2014, Reno’s Public Works department decided it was time to act. The City of Reno embarked on a water quality study to identify contributing factors, and potential solutions. They invited the public to weigh in on four options related to the condition of the lake.

To include a broad range of voices in this discussion, Reno deployed a Textizen survey and promoted it through social media, newspapers, the City’s e-newsletter, and flyers posted around town. The survey offered the chance to vote on the proposed options, as well as share favorite lakeside activities and where in Reno (or outside the city) the respondents live.

“People who couldn’t make it to the public meetings were thrilled that they could still make their voices heard. We were amazed at how citizens responded to being included in the process.

-Monica Thompson
Digital Engagement Program Manager, City of Reno

It seemed like a lively, but fairly typical, public feedback effort. But as the Textizen survey brought more people into the process, and word-of-mouth spread, something interesting happened.

Virginia Lake feedback flyer

Image via the City of Reno.

A Passionate Public Guides Decision-Making

As the text survey sparked more discussion around the Virginia Lake project, more residents began showing up to the meetings—after an intimate first meeting held in a cafe, the second session drew over 100 attendees.

Many people suggested that the options presented in the Textizen survey were too limited and did not reflect other possible routes to improving the lake. Some brought their own knowledge of marine ecology to the discussion, while others had done independent reading to learn more about the issue.

Hearing these comments, the Ward 2 City Council Member decided to return to the drawing board and enlist independent scientists to do further research on the cause of the lake’s algae bloom. The City plans to launch a second public feedback phase once the scientists’ results are in.

In total, 288 residents weighed in via text on the Virginia Lake project in this first round. Not only did this provide great data to the City Council, it also means that Reno already has 288 people ready to offer input as soon as the next phase begins. Getting their thoughts on the new improvement options, and inviting them all to attend the next round of meetings, will be as easy as sending a text.

If you’d like to learn more about how mobile can help you open dialogue to the public, get in touch: