Chester, Mont. —Oct. 16, 2012— A community roundtable will be held in Chester, Mont. at the Liberty County Community and Senior Center from 5:30-7:30 on October 16.  This family friendly meeting, with food, beverages, door prizes, and youth activities, will give the residents of Liberty County and the surrounding area a format to discuss and envision the future of North Central Montana.  Residents will be given the opportunity to identify needs and priorities that exist within their community and strategies that could enhance and promote a vibrant and sustainable future for Liberty County.

The community roundtable meetings are a collaborative effort between Bear Paw Development and Opportunity Link to help residents voice their community goals and become the driving force behind shaping the future of Liberty County and North Central Montana. Paul Tuss, executive director for Bear Paw Development said, “Listening to our neighbors throughout northern Montana is a great way to understand the vision that area residents have for their community and the Hi-Line.  I’m hopeful that folks are willing to share their best ideas about creating a region that will continue to be a great place to live and raise a family, with an eye toward the next generation.”

A key objective of these meetings will be to examine regional connections with accuracy and transparency by mapping town-to-town transportation patterns for goods and services, recreation, and cultural activities and to identify commonalities, values, and traditions that are unique to rural Montana.  With the advice and assistance of local citizens, Bear Paw Development and Opportunity Link will be able to develop scenario maps that will showcase future impacts on the region.  These scenarios will allow community members to examine and choose which scenario best reflects the culture and values of the residents and will lead to improved employment, housing, community health, regional transportation, and infrastructure.

This community driven planning effort, titled Vibrant Futures, is made possible through the award of a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant. Opportunity Link submitted the grant application on behalf of North Central Montana communities, in order to provide the resources necessary to achieve prosperity through grassroots level planning. The grant is part of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities which works to coordinate federal housing, transportation, water, and other infrastructure investments to make neighborhoods more prosperous, allow people to live closer to jobs, save households time and money, and reduce pollution.

Since the award of the grant, the Vibrant Futures team has dedicated much of their time to collecting existing community data in order to create a comprehensive database that truly reflects how our region currently looks in terms of statistics, but Kate McMahon, founder of Applied Communications and planning consultant for Vibrant Futures remarked that, “Statistics are only one piece of the puzzle.  It is essential that the community be involved to help interpret the data.  The people in the community can tell the stories of how regional trends are affecting their daily lives. Data might tell us the population is aging but only the citizens can tell us how their elderly neighbor struggles with heating bills, transportation and isolation.  Only citizens can share the innovative ideas on how to address the issues that the data reveals.”

In moving forward with Vibrant Futures, the knowledge, expertise, and input on the needs and priorities that exist within the communities and the region will be vital to the project and will serve as a basis for the regional plan.  Join us October 16th to share your vision for making your community a great place to live generations from now.  For more information please call 406-265-3699 or visit the website at www.vibrantfuturesmt.org.


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