Anyone who’s been to Ventura in the past few decades knows one thing about the city: a huge rift separates two of its most attractive and vibrant features: its beaches and its historic Downtown.

When the Highway 101 freeway was built in the middle of the last century, it cut a swath straight through the city, cutting off Downtown from the shore. Unlike many coastal cities, where the core commercial district flows seamlessly into the beachfront, Ventura has been bifurcated. Downtown has continued to thrive, albeit somewhat hobbled, while the beach area surrounding the pear has withered.

Now, the city is finally aggressively approaching an idea discussed for years but dismissed as grandiose and unrealistic: Why not cover over the 101 to reconnect the two areas? It’s an idea until this point most enthusiastically promoted by businessman Doug Halter, who last year barely lost his bid for a seat on the city council. It’s good to see others in the city are beginning to see the wisdom in Halter’s idealistic proposal.

The best part, though, is that anybody can get involved early on with planning for just how to implement such a creative feat. We urge anyone who cares about the future of this community as well as those who constantly feel left out of local planning processes to get involved and stay involved with this project, and their first opportunity to do so will be April 2, at a public design workshop from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Crowne Plaza hotel (formerly the Holiday Inn) at 450 E. Harbor Blvd.

We believe it is important for the public to get involved with this potentially momentous project, and we commend the workshop’s organizers for setting the event up. The next step is for city leaders and planning officials to keep the process open, transparent and accessible to the public, and, in turn, for the public to remain involved with and attentive to the project (and any others they care about) throughout its planning.

Ventura is one of those cities where you just can’t win if you work in local government. Indeed, that is probably the case in all of the county’s cities, if not in all government.

Residents often rail upon civic leaders for not doing enough to solve one problem while overstepping its authority to solve another, albeit the fact many of their decisions are taken in response to the wishes and passions of residents.

In reality, it’s not really fair to claim we don’t have a responsive local government. The city has some of the most accessible public agencies in the county. Its Web site is extensive and informative. It is easy to watch current or past city council meetings and to read public documents online, and just about every city official makes his or her self available to the media and the public when necessary.

This workshop is a great example of this local transparency, and we urge citizens passionate about reconnecting the beach with the Downtown or simply with the way this city approaches planning projects in general to get involved and stay involved. Those who do not do so from an early stage will have no reason to complain in the future, as long as the project’s organizers remain committed to involving the public at every stage of its development.