For the week of January 6, 1999   thru January 12, 1999  

Another New Year’s resolution

Here’s one more New Year’s resolution to add to the list: To participate in shaping the valley’s future.

Last year, locals spent hundreds of hours and reams of paper writing about what they liked and disliked about the valley. Their comments are summarized in the WwRAP survey.

Now locals need to decide what to do with the results.

The survey was unprecedented.

WwRAP, the acronym for the Big Wood River and Little Wood River Action Plan, is a loosely organized group of volunteers who scraped up enough money to complete the ambitious survey. It was far from a classic random survey, but the breadth of the open-ended survey—1,346 were completed and returned—was remarkable.

Full copies have not yet hit local libraries, but summaries were sent to everyone in the valley. The complete results fill 3,000 pages.

Ideas about what will keep the valley a good place to live were handwritten in the spaces for answers, in the margins and on pieces of scratch paper attached to the surveys.

The survey was like a New England town meeting, except that it went on for months while people squeezed out time in the evenings and on weekends to describe the valley in which they want to live.

The survey answered the question asked repeatedly by local public officials: What do residents want? What do they think?

As we begin 1999, the survey should be required reading for all members of the valley’s city councils, planning and zoning boards and the Blaine County Board of Commissioners.

The survey lists common priorities including managing growth, protecting open space and the environment and preserving the valley’s small-town character.

Finding ways to protect the things people love and to change the things they don’t like will take more than the survey. It will take participation in public affairs by every man and woman in the valley.

Participation means doing more than reading the newspaper and complaining about what is going wrong. It means being part of the search for answers on community development, taxation, education, recreation, business, transportation or housing. Leaving the search to others means that good ideas—your ideas-- may be overlooked.

Participation can be as simple as going to a public hearing to offer a positive solution. It can be as extensive as running for public office or serving as a volunteer.

The payoff for a few hours of time spent will be a community with the open space, the clean environment and the caring small town atmosphere residents say they want. The payoff will be a community rich in character and culture.


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