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Recommendations for Improving the Pikes Peak Region (PPR) 2030 Sustainability Plan

Capstone Project

By Konrad Schlarbaum, Master’s in Environmental Studies & Sustainability

The Pikes Peak region has yet to realize the many benefits of having an improved sustainability plan. Communities can become more sustainable and resilient through improving their understanding of the interdependencies among the economy, environment, and society (Irwin et al., 2017; Rajaonson and Tanguay, 2019). They can more effectively address a multitude of complex issues emerging from rapid urbanization (Wheeler, 2009). The Pikes Peak region can conduct long-term planning, better understand resource limits, and foster a sense of place (Wheeler, 2009). A regional plan can encourage cities, businesses, and organizations to coalesce around common sustainability goals. The largest city in the region, Colorado Springs, plans to adopt the new plan’s goals.  

This project involves a regional sustainability plan called Looking to our Future: Pikes Peak Region 2030 (hereafter referred to as the PPR 2030 plan). This region is located in Southeastern Colorado, approximately 69 miles south of Denver. The PPR 2030 planning process took place from 2010-2012. The purpose of the plan was to establish high-level sustainability stretch goals for Teller and El Paso Counties (PASF, 2012). The process was led by Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG), guided by a 24-member consensus committee, and involved over 100 stakeholders representing various organizations. The PPR 2030 plan comprised of ten issue areas that covered economic, social, and environmental systems.  

My project aimed to provide recommendations for improving the Pikes Peak Region 2030 (PPR 2030) sustainability plan. My partners were Peak Alliance for a Sustainable Future (PASF), City of Colorado Springs, and the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG). They are in the early stages of planning an update for the PPR 2030 plan. I have worked closely with my partners to deliver useful strategies for improving the planning process. They have requested that I focus on my first two goals: implementation monitoring and stakeholder engagement. I added a third goal of aligning the regional sustainability plan goals with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs). I conducted stakeholder interviews and reviewed scholarly literature and case studies to identify and evaluate regional sustainability planning strategies.  

I used three sources of information to inform my recommendations to improve the PPR 2030 plan. The first was conducting interviews of stakeholders involved in past and present planning efforts. Secondly, I reviewed scholarly literature, including books and journal articles. My third source of information was analyzing case studies of other regional sustainability plans in the United States. I used stakeholder interviews to develop guiding principles. I also assessed sustainability planning strategies based on their impact on plan outcomes and the resources they needed. I created a six-point Likert scale to score the strategies and a priority matrix to plot them.

I reviewed 3 case studies, 4 stakeholder interviews, and 22 scholarly articles for regional sustainability planning strategies. I identified and evaluated a total of 67 actions with 37 actions for implementation monitoring, 25 actions for stakeholder engagement, and 5 actions for alignment with the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals (UNSDGs). However, I found the impact criteria were not useful in discriminating among the actions. I simplified the priority matrix to focus on the differences in resources needed for implementation. I plotted 34 strategies in the low-resource quadrant and 33 strategies in the high-resource quadrant.

While I recommend all of the strategies in this report, I highlighted three strategies for each goal. I focused on actions that may be unfamiliar to my partners but can significantly improve the regional sustainability planning outcomes. I have highlighted one strategy for each goal for this section. Regarding implementation monitoring, I suggest developing climate change mitigation, adaptation, and resiliency outcomes for each issue area. One of my recommended strategies for stakeholder engagement was to improve stakeholder diversity across all issue areas. Lastly, I suggested that my partners investigate the alignment between the UNSDGs and the PPR 2030 goals.