The success of your Blue Trail largely depends on community support and involvement. You need engaged partners, stakeholders, and the community at large. To ensure that all parties are in agreement about the project there must be early and extensive outreach. The community should be involved in every stage of development from initial planning to design, building, managing, and promotion.
Establishing good communication and an effective working relationship between agencies, organizations, businesses, private landowners, and other community members is not always easy. Regardless of whether you encounter minimal or more significant opposition, the following strategies can help to get a project moving in a positive direction. It’s never too late to reach out to those with concerns and work toward compromises.
Remember that it takes time and resources to properly reach out and solicit input. There are many mechanisms for doing so and each has its advantages and disadvantages. Choose the strategies that will work best in your community.
Mechanisms for raising awareness, soliciting input, and building support
- Letters may be appropriate as invitations to a meeting or in the very early stages to inform parties of the proposed blue trail. They should always be followed up with personal contact.
- Newsletters, pamphlets, brochures, maps, and posters can present information at various levels of detail. However, printing, production, and postage costs can be expensive and you’ll need to have an accurate mailing list. As an alternative, web based newsletters, brochures, and guides may be used.
- Surveys can inexpensively provide answers to a variety of questions, be directed toward broad or specific audiences, and monitor community attitudes and knowledge. Survey Monkey is one commercial online survey service. More formal, expensive surveys can be done such as the Waccamaw River Blue Trail Survey, a telephone survey of XXX, funded by a private foundation to XXX. Shop around to find the survey that best suits your needs.
- Public meetings can provide a forum to solicit feedback from the community, identify major issues, and announce future activities. They also offer an opportunity for the public to rank their priorities. In some cases, public meetings can be confrontational and those attending the meetings may not be representative of the entire community. Results from public meetings must be transcribed, organized, and reported back to the community. To learn more about planning and implementing a successful community meeting see Resources: Meeting in a Box.
- Special events are meant to draw media attention, public interest, and excitement. They can generate great interest for a short period, elicit media coverage, and be an excellent means for focusing on an issue. Disadvantages are that they can be a lot of work and expensive.
- News stories and press releases provide broad coverage, place major issues before the public, and can be cost-effective if the coverage is adequate.This can also include paid advertisements, publications, and TV specials. To learn more about publicizing your blue trail see Promote a Blue Trail: Work with the Media.
- Tours and field trips can educate the participants about points of interests and provide firsthand information about the project in an informal setting. Field trips can be expensive, require a number of experts, and subject to weather conditions.