As a consultant, sometimes you just know a community is going to take the next steps after the consulting gig has ended. This was the case for Kane, Pennsylvania when Cycle Forward facilitated a community planning meeting in the fall of 2019. There was a collective energy with all signs pointing to follow-through and sustained engagement.
Dates: November 15, 2019
Client: Kane Area Revitalization Enterprise (KARE)
Location: Kane, Pennsylvania
Outdoor Assets: Allegheny National Forest, Knox-Kane Trail
Project Type: Community Engagement, Workshop & Meeting Facilitation
Kane is a rural community that borders the Allegheny National Forest in northwest Pennsylvania. The 3,500-person town with a timbering past has been revitalizing in recent years. An informal group called “SPARKS” includes the local government, community development organizations, businesses, and other entities that are invested in Kane’s vitality. In November 2019, Cycle Forward was invited to join community leaders for a planning meeting.
By the time of the meeting, the entities and individuals involved in the community-driven SPARKS initiative had been working together for a couple of years to “spark” positive change. Knowing this, Cycle Forward’s approach to the planning meeting was to contribute to the larger process by offering inspiration and topical expertise. A slide from that’s evening’s presentation stated, “The examples are out there, but the answers are in this room.” Cycle Forward’s role was simply to facilitate a powerful conversation about healthy downtowns and opportunities specific to Kane…to bring out the answers, more or less.
On a logistical note, it’s helpful to arrive a day early when possible. It leaves some space for a town tour and getting the feel for a place before taking part in planning sessions. It can also provide some wiggle room in the case of inclement weather. Amy left Pittsburgh the day before the workshop and, in a few hours’ time, was transported to a winter wonderland. Kane’s first seasonal snowfall yielded a half-foot of snow that would have made driving the next morning a challenge. It was delightful to experience an early snowfall that hadn’t occurred back at home.
- A pre-meeting walking assessment of the downtown area (insights were later shared at the meeting)
- Co-designing the meeting agenda, offering a presentation, and facilitating a workshop-style conversation on how Kane could continue to improve its downtown
The SPARKS group has a philosophy statement, which is, “Active, attractive communities attract people.” Perhaps that is why on a snowy November weeknight evening, dozens of residents and other stakeholders came out for the meeting. The meeting produced a community assessment built around locally-established attributes such as physical beauty, hospitality, outdoor recreation, and critical services. The assessment would go on to support SPARKS in prioritizing projects.