Group session

The final Salem Vision 2040 meeting with Drury University students is to be held 5 p.m.-7 p.m. May 7 at the Salem Community Center @ the Armory and will discuss the students’ findings after collaboration with the community over a period of three prior meetings.

These visioning meetings were held to establish a community-wide idea of what the participants would like Salem to be in the year 2040. With the help of eight, third-year architecture students with Drury University of Springfield, staff and faculty from Drury and the University of Missouri-Extension and dozens of Salem and Dent County citizens, the final meeting will detail the results a 250-page written and graphic report from the team’s research and recommendations for Salem 2040. Along with the report will be visual presentation boards that will illustrate research, precedents studied, suggested conceptual ideas for improving Salem and their own recommendations.

“It’s not the final vision, but what they are giving us are ideas and thoughts about how we can use projects in our community to move a potential vision forward,” said Sarah Hultine Massengale, the Community Development Specialist with the University of Missouri Extension – Dent County. “(The students) help us think through a lot of these ideas of what our vision might be and what we want Salem to be like in 2040. Our advisory committee will take that information, ideas and recommendations and work together to draft a vision statement that will be presented to the city council hopefully by the end of the year or early next year.”

Over the previous three meetings, students collaborated with locals around Dent County and Salem to determine what each person wished to see of their community. This was done through cycles of game-like review sessions, group discussions and presentations offered by the students. As Massengale explains, the findings that will be presented by the students are only the beginning of a longer process of crafting the final vision for the community.

“A vision is this sort of idea of what we want our community to be like in 2040,” Massengale said. “It’s not set in stone, and what it is, is more is a guiding statement, I would say. For example, some of the ideas that came up in our conversations in the public meetings were ‘In 20 years we want our community to be a place where people want to raise their families.’ That was a really important one to a lot of people. We are already, in some ways, family oriented, but the vision statement would help us think through and keep those things in mind.”

While the process is for a vision of Salem in 2040, Massengale also stressed the interconnectivity of Salem and Dent County, saying that “we are almost one and the same,” and encouraged citizens of Dent County, like herself, to also offer their input during the process.

City administrator Ray Walden, a collaborator and participant of the event, explained that the partnership with Drury University is also based on their community experience, having helped between 30 and 40 communities with their own variations of a vision process.

“Each community is unique and takes a slightly different direction. They tweak their approach as needed for each community,” said Walden. “The faculty involved have extensive experience with this kind of process and have been working with the classes for years, so while it may be the first experience for the students, they are in good hands with the faculty.”

Massengale said that while the visioning event not only provides “real-world experience” for the students, it also brings in fresh ideas to the community.

“These students are architecture and design students from Springfield, so that’s what they are studying all the time. It’s a great way to get the community to think outside the box and have some new ideas brought in,” she said.

While this upcoming meeting is the last in the series, input and review are still needed from members of the community.

“I don’t want to discourage people from coming, because they will have a chance to discuss (the findings),” Massengale said. “We really want people to take a look and see and let us know what they think. We will take this information to the Advisory Committee while thinking about which of these things we really like and are there pieces that we want to pull forward into the visioning statement. This (final meeting) is not going to be the end of the process.”

The Advisory Committee, consisting of various members of the community, will then take the findings, recommendations and toolkits provided by the students and craft their own tailor-made statement in the next six months.

“As the committee meets there will be more opportunities for public input because it is not just going to be just the committee’s vision statement,” Massengale said. “What I would encourage is even if you haven’t attended yet, these are great opportunities to (come together) as a community. It’s pretty cool, we get to think about our community 20 years from now and what we want it to be. There’s a lot going on in our community already to keep it moving and improving, but these are chances to think of new ideas and get people involved.”

“In some ways our work is just starting when they leave,” Walden said. “If you want to quickly see a synopsis of some recent discussions by a broad segment of the community regarding things that will effect the quality of life in Salem and Dent County, (the meeting) is a good use of your time.”