Developing a regional plan is an iterative process. Over the last three years stakeholders have worked together to develop a document, a framework, and a process that works for both their individual communities and for the greater region.
Gather Facts: Smart planning decisions rely on accurate and comprehensive information, and advancements in mapping technology allow for information-rich decision-making. Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology, a powerful data and mapping analysis tool, and a variety of other software applications, paired with interviews of local issue experts, a sophisticated planning analysis was conducted of the region. The synthesized and distilled layers of geographic, demographic, and cultural information illustrate a mosaic of existing opportunities and constraints.
Build Consensus: There are many smart and dedicated people working to improve the Flint Hills region. Each individual stakeholder, organization and government entity works in their own, sometimes divergent, self-interest. Flint Hills Frontiers incorporated all viewpoints to build an actionable consensus. By starting from a point of common understanding and appreciation for this special place, the planning process has successfully built consensus around a regional vision and goals.
Empower Leaders: The planning process has revealed a network of community leaders ready to promote good ideas and challenge conventional norms. A series of leadership workshops provided these individuals and organizations with the information they need to promote the regional goals and expand the network of advocates. These leaders will be implementing projects, programs, and policy that support the regional vision for the long-term.
Promote Livable Communities: At the heart of the Flint Hills vitality is the health of the area’s rural communities. These communities have suffered from population decline and economic disinvestment. The long-term success of the small prairie town is intimately tied to the health of the tallgrass prairie. Fortunately, accessible communications technologies and an increasing respect for the natural beauty of the Flint Hills have improved the outlook and provided new prospects for many small communities. By utilizing existing infrastructure, improving the telecommunications network, and promoting smart development decisions, Flint Hills Frontiers illustrates a course of action for communities that are interested in using new tools to maximize their investments within a regional framework.
Enhance Conservation: The natural resources in the Flint Hills are the underpinning of any economic or cultural revitalization effort. The beauty of the Flint Hills is unquestionably unique, and its protection is critical to the well-being of every resident and visitor alike. Additionally, the international significance of the tallgrass prairie ecosystem has attracted attention from a wide variety of interest groups. Unlike many western states where the federal government owns up to 70% of the total land area, only 3% of Kansas lands are under federal oversight. This statistic highlights the importance of private conservation efforts in the state and the need for a concerted strategy, which is enumerated in Flint Hills Frontiers.
Measuring Success: The measure of success for any plan is in its implementation. A clearly defined list of priorities and a set of metrics that can be used to evaluate successes and identify shortfalls has been established. Flint Hills Frontiers lists the necessary steps to complete the identified project tasks.
Enabling Market-Driven Economic Development: The economic viability of the Flint Hills is crucial to the long-term success of the region. By definition, economic development should attempt to increase the wealth of all people. Flint Hills Frontiers uses a market-driven approach to economic development. By establishing a consistent strategy that addresses many segments of the economy and identifies attainable improvement opportunities, Flint Hills Frontiers seeks to realize substantial and equitable economic gains in the region.
Flint Hills Frontiers was driven by the vision, priorities, and goals of community members. Many people were involved in crafting the plan through both innovative and traditional techniques. Each of the following groups and engagement exercises will continue to play a vital role in its implementation.
Community Meetings: During the first series of community meetings, community members worked to establish a common vision for the Flint Hills and more specific guidance for the seven issue areas. In a collaboration with the Kansas-based Public Square Communities facilitation team, community members working in teams crafted a unified vision by answering various questions about their ideal future Flint Hills. The vision statement (See next page) was generated during these meetings and became the touchstone for all of the Flint Hills Frontiers recommendations.
Flint Hills Forum: The Flint Hills Forum is an online engagement tool that facilitated conversations across the expansive geographic project area. Ideas submitted directly by community members and those uploaded from community meetings continued conversations and provided a means to further review and provide input at the convenience of stakeholders. Future participation on a website platform will continue to encourage implementation, community buy-in, and public awareness.
The Steering Committee: The Steering Committee is a small, diverse group leaders from local, state, and tribal organizations as well as the private sector. Over the course of the planning process, the Steering Committee acted as a sounding board for plan development and are ultimately charged with providing a high level of feedback to guide plan recommendations into implementation.
The Technical Committee: The Technical Committee is composed of staff members from cities and counties throughout the region. This group is intimately aware of the infrastructure, design, and policy that currently supports communities in the Flint Hills. This group provided the onthe- ground knowledge necessary to ensure recommendations are feasible and integrated across diverse jurisdictions, and will continue to do so during implementation.
Implementation Network: The Implementation Network is the group of stakeholders, including but not limited to cities and counties, tribal and other governmental organizations, private businesses, landowners, community groups, and other associations that will work to implement Flint Hills Frontiers. The Flint Hills Regional Council is the convener of these stakeholders, bringing them together to identify strategic projects through a process of Strategic Doing that will create a culture of implementation for the long-term.