Facilitation group meets to bring community ideas together

People representing a cross section of interests and stakeholders came together Tuesday to brainstorm ideas on how to positively impact Park Rapids. The Park Rapids Community Facilitation was held at the Frank White community room to create colla...

People representing a cross section of interests and stakeholders came together Tuesday to brainstorm ideas on how to positively impact Park Rapids.

The Park Rapids Community Facilitation was held at the Frank White community room to create collaboration between groups with similar interests and goals, effectively use available resources and increase communication to implement change.

Under the direction of facilitator Jodi Pfarr, the group of about 50 looked at nine key components of the community: health, veterans, religion, seniors, education, business, arts, basic needs and youth. Participants chose a group to work in and identified within that area of interest what it looks like now, where the passion and priority lies, before developing a 90-day plan.

The workshop is a continuation of the process begun through the Blandin Academy for Community Engagement initiative, along with other organizations in Park Rapids.

The facilitation event was put together due to a frequent topic in the community calling for increased communications across all dimensions in order to create more collaboration, eliminate redundancy and effectively utilize limited resources.


Tuesday's meeting brought stakeholders together to discuss current initiatives in the Park Rapids community to help create a systematic change, increase conversation and create collaboration.

The objective is to further develop how Park Rapids tackles big issues in the community, recognizing many voices are needed and these groups and interested parties all do better when working together.

Each group identified needs and issues related to a particular area of focus before identifying priorities. The health group noted things like stress/trauma-related syndromes, generational transmission of unhealthy coping skills and a "pill for every ill" mentality. They identified concerns that are treatable like obesity, diabetes, addiction, mental health and lack of healthy lifestyles.

Each small group in the nine areas of focus came up with ideas for the future and all participants went around to the smaller groups and voted on priorities and passion. For example, the top two priorities identified for health were the integration of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) risk and protective factors and emotional regulation strategies into all health/social/education institutions; and establishing a drug/alcohol court and re-entry program.

Education priorities included to establish an advisory board for Panther Tracks, a career-based approach to education connecting students to community businesses in various fields.

The arts coordination task force stated a strategic direction to provide a coordination and communication point for arts events in the Park Rapids area. They will create an online arts events calendar and develop list of arts organizations for the Park Rapids Lakes Area Arts Council and the Chamber of Commerce.

Some of the things discussed in the business group included to encourage a youth entrepreneur program, public transportation, modern loft housing, regional talent recruitment, shortage of middle class housing. Looking ahead, the group talked about further development of the school ag program to implement trade school education and the outdoor classroom concept. Some of the future priorities in this area include higher wages and employee retention and attracting bigger business to the area, riverfront development (hotel, shops, housing). Main Street connectivity to trails and recreation was discussed with a top priority in developing a county-wide outdoor recreation plan.

The group developed four 90-day plans, one centering around establishing a mission and determining what businesses as a whole are trying to achieve. Identifying public and private stakeholders and creating an inventory of all the assets in the country, regardless of ownership are additional plans. This looks at parks, trails, waterways, access points and facilities.


Some of the ideas to come out of the veterans discussion group is to make transportation for handicapped veterans readily available and to make sure all veterans in nursing homes are getting the assistance they need.

In the area of religion, the group established a future story that includes churches taking an approach that addresses the whole person and identifying the greatest needs. Also, churches integrating into more community efforts.

The seniors group established that seniors want to participate in the community and are great volunteers with a passion for improvement of the community. They have great stories and knowledge to share and want to help make the community safe. With the growing number of seniors living here, goals of the group include increasing seniors usage of current programs, increase the volunteer pool, increase job opportunities and give seniors a sense of health, wellness and safety in the community.

The youth group will work on an ACE's initiative and identify key partners to address some of the issues youth are facing. A second 90-day plan includes community education.

The facilitation group will meet again in April to implement the 90-day plans and continue discussions of community collaboration.

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