An essential part of formulating the program envisioned in the Network to Freedom Act was consulting with community advocates and local researchers to correctly respect the community memories of the Underground Railroad. The National Park Service invited community representatives to participate in several meetings to focus on these issues. The most significant meetings were:
- July 1999, Columbus, OH: determined the types of sties, programs and facilities that should be recognized by the Network and the guiding principles for use of the logo.
- January 2000, Charleston, SC: clarified the standards for "verifiable association," the use of oral traditions to document Underground Railroad associations, and issues related to historic preservation of Underground Railroad properties.
The prevailing sentiment of these meetings was that the Network to Freedom should be inclusive in the types of sites, programs and facilities that could qualify. However, the need to maintain clear standards for documenting a verifiable association was emphasized. Many of the participants, having researched the Underground Railroad history for many years, were aware of the perception that accurate information about the Underground Railroad is not available and many claims for association are rooted in myth. Above all, there was concern for the importance of the history and the need for credibility in claims of Underground Railroad association.
As the Network to Freedom staff developed the mission statement for the program, the process and application form for nominating members to the Network to Freedom, and guidance on using oral traditions to research, staff continued to consult and work with community members, as well as, National Park Service staff skilled in interpretation, curation and archives.