Why I Became a Planner Blog Series – Anna Dragovich
By Katie Bannon, AICP
As a kid, Anna Dragovich didn’t realize that planning had an impact on the place she grew up. Her home and family farm were located on a busy street in rural Stark County, Ohio. She remembers that she always wanted a place to ride her bike, but she was limited to their small gravel driveway or riding through the grass. Perhaps not surprisingly now, Anna is a transportation planner for the City of Bloomington, an avid cyclist, and a bicycle and pedestrian advocate. However, it wasn’t until graduate school, that Anna realized how transportation and urban planning connected to her interests.
Anna attended Walsh University for her undergraduate, studying Biology and intending to become a physical therapist. However, she didn’t enjoy her anatomy classes. She remembers standing over a cat the class was dissecting and realizing that if she didn’t like studying anatomy, physiology, and muscles, she wasn’t going to enjoy physical therapy. Although she was already far along in her Biology major, Anna began exploring other interests. She had the opportunity to study abroad in Italy. Although based in Rome, the students had opportunities to travel to many other cities on the weekends. Anna especially enjoyed visiting the city of Venice. In retrospect, she sees that part of the reason she liked Venice so much was that there were no cars. Instead, there were many alleys and nooks and crannies and places that people just generally wanted to be. She began thinking about what makes a place somewhere that people want to be.
After Anna graduated with a degree in Biology, she worked for her dad while she determined what to do next. Anna’s dad had just retired from a career as a carpenter. Although he had done some farming of hay, corn, and oats to feed 4-H animals in the past, farming had only been a part time job. Now, he started doing organic farming of a variety of vegetables and raising chickens. At first, Anna thought organic farming was strange since she had only been exposed to larger scale farms with tractors. However, as she spoke with her dad, she learned that he was growing organic food to improve the environment. He wanted to grow food and make a positive impact, and he was busier than ever in retirement. Anna’s experience working with her dad inspired her to go to graduate school at Miami University and study environmental science.
Anna’s experience in graduate school eventually exposed her to the field of urban planning. Miami University sponsored a lecture series which students were encouraged to attend, and Randall Arendt was one of the lecturers. He presented a case study showing that creating a residential subdivision didn’t have to mean clear cutting all the existing trees and that things like historic stone fences could be incorporated into the new development. Arendt’s presentation opened Anna’s eyes to a new way to build cities. She started talking with an urban planning professor at Miami and learning more about the field. At the same time, she was learning more about climate change, the environment, and sustainability and seeing the large impact that transportation has on these topics. Her graduate advisor was a big cycling advocate, and Anna became more interested in biking and walking. For her master’s project, Anna worked with the Oxford, Ohio Planning Commission to create a bicycle and pedestrian plan for the City of Oxford. The plan made recommendations for bike and pedestrian facility locations throughout the city. In implementing the plan, bike lanes have since been added to an east-west arterial, which they had been removed from in the 1970s.
At the same time, Anna was seeing the negative impacts of poor planning in her hometown. When she was growing up, Anna’s dad would often say, “I remember when this was all farmland” as they traveled through the community. Sprawl was encroaching more and more on where she grew up, and residents had to drive a car to go anywhere. Farmland across from Anna’s hometown school was developed with houses. Anna decided that transportation planning was what she wanted to do for a career.
After graduating, Anna began working for the City of Bloomington’s Planning and Transportation Department as a Senior Transportation Planner. Anna is staff support for the Bloomington-Monroe County Metropolitan Planning Organization and one of the founders of Open Streets Bloomington, an event which encourages people to get out into the streets and be active. Open Streets Bloomington won the 2014 Downtown Bloomington Inc. award for an organization and held its second annual event in September. Anna has also worked on updating and redesigning the City of Bloomington’s bike map, among other transportation projects in the city.