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Polson residents speak, and Polson Heart & Soul listens. That’s what has been happening throughout the Greater Polson area since last autumn, and now the results of conversations centered on discovering what residents love about Polson and what they hope for Polson’s future are beginning to be released.

“Results so far are a mix of the expected and the unexpected,” stated Polson Heart & Soul Project Co-coordinator Darlis Smith. “For example, we expected that Flathead Lake would probably be consistently mentioned at each neighborhood gathering, but we didn’t expect some of the different perspectives about the lake that seem to be related to various neighborhoods. We’ve found Flathead Lake may be primarily valued for recreation in one neighborhood, for scenic beauty in another, and not mentioned nearly as often as the River in another neighborhood. It’s been interesting hearing many different perspectives on a wide variety of topics, and it’s been exciting to discover the common threads, too.”

Several groups of three participants sit knee-to-knee during discussions at the Jette Lake neighborhood gathering of Polson Heart & Soul.

Small group discussions engage Jette Lake neighbors at a Heart & Soul gathering.

The first set of reports summarize the results of interview-style conversations and other input that took place at Heart & Soul gatherings in the Finley Point, Valley View, Jette Lake, and Hillcrest neighborhoods of Polson. The reports, which can be viewed and downloaded at the Polson Heart & Soul website, provide some key insights about what each neighborhood values, as well as some concerns and wishes participants expressed for the future.

The three key values that emerged at the Finley Point gathering are sense of community, preservation of the area’s natural beauty, and recreation/activity opportunities. Safety, especially emergency escape routes, and infrastructure concerns were also prominent discussion topics at the Finley Point gathering.

At the Hillcrest gathering, much of the conversation centered on economic development and the need for a strong downtown. The friendly, open conversations that came so naturally for the Valley View/Irvine Flats participants were a clue to the Heart & Soul volunteers that this neighborhood’s results would show highest value placed on a supportive, tight-knit community with strong personal relationships. Jette Lake participants also highly valued community, and with that expressed a strong appreciation of diversity and working together to complete projects or help others.

“We are working hard on the remaining 15 summaries and hope to have them completed over the next six weeks,” stated Smith. “The next step will be to combine all 19 neighborhood findings into a set of shared community values, which will then be vetted with the community later this fall. From there, we will develop recommendations for non-profits, community developers, ad hoc community groups, and local government on aligning efforts to uphold and strengthen community values.”

To see if your neighborhood’s report is available, check the website often for the latest Neighborhood Gathering Results documents. To volunteer to help with the shared values identification process, or to lend your talents to any aspect of the Polson Heart & Soul project, call Daniel or Darlis Smith at 270-8258.