National Park ServiceU.S. Department of the Interior
Partnership header Making music at the Ashville festival, Blue Ridge Parkway
St. Croix Scenic Coalition

Description: Over the past three years, the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway (NPS-SACN) has served as an advisor, providing advice and assistance to the St. Croix Scenic Coalition (SCSC). NPS-SACN provided advice and assistance on issues such as organizational capacity and membership building, development of a formal board, by-laws and coalition building; establishment of 501(c)(3) non-profit status and development of a five year Strategic Plan which includes a mission statement, guiding principles, short and long term goals and a 20/20 vision statement.

Geographic area covered: The SCSC focuses their efforts on the portion of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway that forms the border between the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin. Commonly known as the St. Croix River Valley, this corridor covers over 120 linear miles from Hastings, MN in the south to Danbury, WI in the north. There are over 60 municipal governments (townships, cities, villages and county's) along this stretch of the river.

List of partners and relationships: The Minnesota / Wisconsin Boundary Area Commission (no longer in existence), University of Wisconsin at River Falls and UW Extension offices, 1000 Friends of Minnesota, St. Croix Watershed Research Station (Science Museum of Minnesota), University of Minnesota Water Resources Center, Wisconsin Dept of Natural Resources, and the Conservation Fund.

Accomplishments to date: Over a one-year period, the SCSC and project partners successfully planned agenda's, coordinated speakers and sponsored eight "Last Chance Landscape" regional community workshops. The river corridor was divided into eight sub regions, and target communities were invited to attend from communities on both sides of the river. Each workshop focused on helping communities identify their assets, prioritizing the threats to those assets, and learning about tools and planning strategies to address threats. The half-day events were also structured to maximize opportunities for neighbors from across the river to get to know each other, and to provide a variety of avenues for people to become further engaged with the SCSC and actions to help protect their community assets.

Since the completion of the workshops, the SCSC and project partners are completing a document which will provide information gathered at individual workshops, including a summary of community assets, highest priority threats and potential solutions. The document will help guide the project partners towards their next steps in developing a successful "coalition" of members and organizations. The SCSC has the stated goal of developing a structure that allows everyone to contribute what they can while avoiding the common situation where a few people carry the majority of the work and burn out.

Key success factors:

  1. A local steering committee was formed to select workshop locations, food vendors, and to make small adjustments to agendas. These committees of 3 to 5 people made personal phone calls to people they thought would have an interest in attending, and promoted the workshops through local media, civic organizations and with local government officials. Over 230 people attended the workshops, largely due to the efforts and personal "buy-in" of each regional steering committee that felt that the workshop was "their own".
  2. The National Park Service "Challenge Cost Share" grant program provided a 50/50 funding match. Being able to bring even a small amount of money to the table significantly raised the credibility of the NPS, its mission, and broke down barriers with many people who were waiting to see the NPS take a more active role in protecting the River Valley.

Frustrations: Federal government regulations which prohibit or severely restrict a park's ability to provide awards and other forms of formal recognition to communities and organizations that are working hard to protect what we are charged to care for. Federal travel and payroll regulations make it difficult for NPS employees to be compensated to attend functions and events that cover such a wide geographic area. Effective partnerships come down to developing personal relationships and "being there" when important threats and issues arise, and most do not fit conveniently into an 8 to 5 workday. There are many built-in disincentives for park staff who know what is required to develop effective partnerships, but feel that their agency is not able to provide them with the tools necessary to fully support their efforts.

Most important lessons learned to date:

  1. Communities will respond if the NPS is seen as a resource that can be called upon to help them work through issues of common concern. In some cases, this assistance may take the form of something that does not appear to be directly tied to our mission, but in the long run develops an atmosphere that what is good for neighboring communities and partner organizations is also good for protecting the resource.
  2. Know up front that it takes a large amount of time that does not usually fit in to an 8 to 5 workday. Evening and weekend meetings are almost the norm, especially if you want to draw in people who work for a living.
  3. A "phone tree" type system is much more effective for getting people to attend than simply distributing a press release, printing up a newsletter or doing a mass mailing. The rule of three seems to apply: those who attend need to hear about the event from at least three different sources. The most powerful source is a phone call or personal invitation from someone they know.
  4. Work with professional facilitators. Some were paid and some chose not to be compensated. Those sessions run by a professional were much more effective. Whatever it costs, it will be worth it in a much more successful end product.

What would you do differently next time: The workshop agenda's were modified as we went along to respond to attendee's evaluations after each workshop. It became clear that we needed to reinforce the next steps and describe the ways in which people could stay engaged a number of times throughout the day. Although the message didn't change, we found that people weren't hearing about "what's next" until we made sure to repeat it and reinforce it with an "Action Menu" that people were asked to fill out and return with their evaluations.

Suggested resource materials: Currently working on a document which will summarize the workshops both individually and collectively, and help to identify where the most important next steps should be. Sample brochures, communication plans and regional steering committee strategy outlines are available if interested.

Based on some of this information, the SCSC completed a five-year strategic plan.

For more information:

Name: Paul Roelandt
Affiliation: Superintendent, St. Croix National Scenic Riverway
Phone/Fax: 715- 483-3284 ext. 633

Partnership category(ies) (check all that apply)

Fundraising __; Capital Improvements __; Facility Management __; Trails __; Design __; Program Delivery __; Visitor Services __; Tenant Organizations __; Concessioners __; Natural Resources Management/Restoration __; Cultural Resources __; Education/Interpretation _X_; Arts __; Information Services __; Transportation __; Mutual Aid __; Fire Management __; Planning _X_; Tourism _X_; Community Relations _X_;

Other ____________________________

Prepared by: Paul Roelandt Date posted: 7/31/03
Phone: 715-483-3284 ext. 633

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