Wednesday, January 26, 2011

64 community leaders agree on 9 valley needs

‘Future search’ establishes first step in tackling valley-changing initiatives

Express Staff Writer

Whitney Werth, spokeswoman for Ketchum’s Community Development Corp., discusses the outcome of the weekend’s “future search” meeting with Dale Bates, leader of the CDC’s Town Design Team. Photo by Willy Cook

The one-room office space overlooking Ketchum's Main Street is usually empty. Just white walls and a wood floor above Lost River Outfitters, waiting for a lease.

However, that changed over the course of the weekend. By Monday, poster-sized papers had been plastered to every wall, floor to ceiling. Hand-written timelines, lists, drawings and charts covered these papers, filling the room with memories of how the Wood River Valley used to be, what it has become and where it could be taken.

This wasn't the work of a raving madman but a gathering of 64 valley leaders in business, local government, health care, housing/land use, tourism/recreation, culture/education and environmental activism. The gathering included young professionals from numerous sectors; Sun Valley Resort General Manager Tim Silva; Ketchum, Sun Valley and Hailey elected officials; south-county farmer Dick Springs; and Best Western Kentwood Lodge owner Cindy Forgeon. They spent 20 hours from Friday evening through Sunday afternoon looking at the valley's past and arriving at common goals for the future.

"We even had working lunches," said young professional Whitney Werth, adding that a lot was accomplished, evident by looking around the room.

"It was fast and intense," said young professional Evan Lawler, of Western States Geothermal.

By weekend's end, the group of 64 had arrived at nine statements that all could agree are needed for the community's future.

"Any statements not receiving 100 percent consensus were not included," said Dale Bates, board member of the Ketchum Community Development Corp., which sponsored the "future search" meeting.

The CDC hired Institute of the Commons, a professional community-meeting facilitator, to lead the meetings. Werth, CDC spokeswoman, said the facilitator required that no journalists be allowed to the meeting, claiming it would inhibit people from opening up. Therefore, the meetings had to be covered using second-hand information.

Bates said the nine common-ground goals are:

- Continue to develop arts/cultural events.

- Maintain dense and lively town cores promoting street life.

- Develop public transportation.

- Strive for a diverse population and unique educational opportunities.

- Improve cooperation among local governments.

- Become energy-efficient.

- Make buying locally produced food and goods more practical.

- Provide the technological infrastructure to make this all possible.

Lawler and Springs were happy with the weekend but still had two concerns. Springs said he went into the first meeting "skeptical," knowing from experience that a lot of talking is done in these gatherings but "nothing comes out of it." However, he said, he predicts "action" this time.

"I think people are in the mood to follow through," he said.

So, what comes next?

Bates said the entire community would be invited to a meeting on March 3 where they can comment on the nine statements. He said groups who still want to be involved would be tasked with specific initiatives.

Springs and Lawler also said they wished the south valley was better represented in the weekend's effort.

"It was very north-valley heavy," Lawler said. "Anytime you can get people like that together, there's enthusiasm but it needs to be a community-wide effort."

However, he said, there was a spoken desire to collaborate valleywide.

Trevon Milliard:

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