‘Tomorrow’ committee to release report in New Year

Four years since its first study, the “Tomorrow” steering committee will release its second report updating the overall strategic plan for the Rainy River Valley by mid-January.
The “Tomorrow” committee consisted of representatives from the Town of Fort Frances, Couchiching First Nation, Township of Alberton, local business reps, and several other community and social services which committed time and money to research and gauge what residents of the Rainy River Valley thought of issues in their area.
The 130-page report acts as a conduit for gathering and recording information from across the district via surveys that were distributed and processed between October, 1997 and October, 1998, and presenting that information to interested parties such as municipal governments.
The ultimate purpose of the report is for municipal governments to use it in their decision-making when undertaking projects.
Committee members are confident the updated report reflects the ideas not only of Fort Frances but everywhere else in the district.
“Over half the comments came from outside the Fort Frances area, and we found that there are no patterns linked to specific communities,” committee member Jim Cumming noted.
“Concerns can be the same all over,” he added.
Cumming also noted the report reflected a wide demographic–an aspect that had changed since the committee’s first report was compiled in 1994.
For example, 25 percent of the respondents were under 18 years of age while a “good portion” were over 60, he said.
Committee member Bonnie Roach then took the survey results and built a database. Information was cross-referenced and co-related, and classified as “vision,” “obstacles,” and “strategies.”
The steering committee’s “vision,” culled from the responses, included:
•an environmentally-friendly district;
•people helping people;
•increased employment services;
•increased accessible adequate services;
•quality services for seniors;
•business promoting active social life; and
•facilities supporting a range of recreation.
“Obstacles” found to be standing in the way of these “visions” included:
•competing demands by various groups;
•the district being stuck in a economic rut;
•small local population and geographic isolation preventing challenges;
•people seeing no benefit to sharing power;
•the community not being confident it has adequate services; and
•inadequate or unenforced laws.
“Strategies” to overcome these “obstacles” included:
•lobbying government and advocating for the people;
•working together as a district;
•creating strategies to enhance the business/industrial base;
•support for district safety and beautification;
•committing to a quality life for seniors; and
•listening to and working with the young.
The report is useful in that a community planning to develop “a business which promotes an active social life,” for instance, can refer to the “strategies” index and see the suggestions made by those surveyed.
The community then would see that a shopping mall was a popular request. By flipping to the page that has the unedited responses of those requesting the mall, a planning committee roughly can gauge if the idea is worth pursuing.
Upwards of 100 copies of the report will be made and presented to the nine municipal councils in the district, as well the 13 First Nations.
The “Tomorrow” committee is hopeful these communities then will take it upon themselves to reproduce the reports so they find their way into the various public libraries and other venues for everyone to use.
A community effort in itself, 12 volunteers distributed and collected the surveys. Much of this was done at the two previous Chamber of Commerce trade shows and the “Lifestyles Expo” earlier this year.
“It’s a really good process–getting information from the grassroots and finding out what’s needed to further the community,” noted volunteer Diane Cherry.
“There is a phenomenal amount of volunteer hours that have gone into [the report],” said committee member Geoff Gillon. “And they were volunteering their time and knowledge in the interest of furthering their community and district.”