If your river is a good candidate for a Blue Trail, the next step is to create a vision statement. The process of creating a vision is an important opportunity for people to work together to discuss what they want to accomplish. A vision statement helps define how to proceed and aids in recruiting and keeping volunteers motivated.
Gather the players: Creating a vision begins with bringing together a small, diverse group of stakeholders. Gathering a group to do this work provides a sense of shared ownership and a commitment to the vision, while broadening support among the community at large. Arrange the meeting with a facilitator and record all comments. Explain the exercise, make clear time limits, and stress the importance of participation and respect for one another. For information on key partners see Plan a Blue Trail: Identify Partners.
Get focused: Set a limit on what the vision will address. Possibilities include physical features such as watersheds or river valleys, boundaries such as townships or counties, or the vision may be for an entire entity like an organization. Make sure everyone understands and is in agreement about the limits before proceeding.
Identify what’s important: Have people identify the qualities that make their river, community, or organization special. Look for themes among the attributes and have the group cluster and label them accordingly. If there is a long list of attributes, it may be necessary to prioritize and possibly rule some out.
Think future: Imagine how these attributes might be described to a visitor five, fifteen, and fifty years from now. Given these qualities in this community, what is possible? What is the dream? It is okay if the dream is slightly out of reach. Scale back if it is totally unrealistic. Be creative and have fun thinking of scenarios.
Write it: Using the words captured during the brainstorm, form a statement. Try beginning with “To become the…” “To be known as…” “To maintain…” There may be a lot of focus on single words, or making subtle changes, but this is important to the process. Everyone should be comfortable with what is said and how it is said. A vision can be a single sentence or a few bullet points as long as it’s clear, focused, and easy to understand.
Agree on it: The final vision should be something the group feels addresses what is most important for the river, community, or organization. With a vision in-hand, tell others about it by issuing a press release, printing brochures, or creating t-shirts. Let everyone know about the vision so work can begin to implement it. To learn more about publicizing your vision see Promote a Blue Trail.