Step by Step Planning Process

A town forest recreation plan offers a voice to the community and a roadmap for community leaders and volunteers toward sustainable recreational use of the town forest. This step-by-step planning process is a framework to develop a community vision, invite robust community engagement, and create actionable strategies. The process is designed to be flexible and can be adapted to meet your community's needs and capacity.  

10 Steps to Creating a Town Forest Recreation Plan

Step 1. Select a Community Steering Committee

The first step in the planning process is to form a steering committee. This is a short term committee tasked with meeting throughout the planning process to provide input, prepare for public workshops, discuss the public’s feedback, and help draft the action-based strategies for the town forest recreation plan. Committee members will also serve ambassadors, helping to champion the local planning process.

Step 2. Determine and Assess Existing Conditions

Once the steering committee is formed, the members will be tasked with documenting and assessing the existing conditions in the town forest and community at large. Specific tasks to gather metrics and information may include:

Step 3. Hold a Steering Committee Kickoff Meeting

To begin the public engagement process, you should inform and solicit the ideas of the steering committee at a kickoff meeting.

  • Steering Committee Guidance provides an overview of the goals of this meeting and instructions on how to facilitate it.  
  • Use the Kick-off Meeting PowerPoint Presentation to share an overview of the process and role of steering committee members
  • Each committee member will need to complete a SWOT Worksheet before the meeting 
  • Complete the Facilitator Worksheet at the meeting. This worksheet is intended to create an open-ended conversation with steering committee members around their vision for their town forest, their expectations for the plan, their ideas for the future, and the potential challenges they see in the process.
Step 4. Hold a Visioning Workshop

The first major public outreach event is a visioning workshop. This workshop is designed to encourage community participation through a series of stations set up in a room, including informational boards, dot exercises, comment cards, and one-on-one conversation. The goal of this event is to gain community input on needs and vision for the town forest.

To prepare for this workshop:

Step 5. Conduct a Community Survey

After the public visioning workshop, a community survey should be developed that asks the same questions asked at the visioning workshop in order to engage those who were unable to attend.

Step 6. Draft a Vision Framework

Once the visioning results are complete, and all stakeholders have had time to review them, the steering committee can begin drafting the vision framework. 

  • General instructions are provided in the Steering Committee Guidance.
  • Once the survey is complete, use the Survey Guidance to interpret and analyze results. That document guides you through filling out the Draft Strategies Results Template, which will summarize the results of both the survey and visioning workshop.
  • Each steering committee member can complete the Vision Framework Guidance and Worksheet, on their own, and then meet as a committee, or the committee can meet to complete it as a group. When completing this worksheet, the steering committee should consult the summarized Visioning Results, revisit the Facilitator Worksheet and SWOT Worksheet during the steering committee kick-off meeting, baseline maps, and any additional pertinent information such as the conservation easement (if applicable), as well as the town forest management plan.
  • Use the Recreational Improvements Strategy Database as a reference to select strategies for the town forest recreation plan. The committee should select the key attributes and the strategies that they feel suit their forest, customizing the description to reflect forest-specific needs.
Step 7. Hold a Draft Strategies Workshop

After developing a vision framework, the next engagement event is a draft strategy workshop. The goal of this workshop is to present the community feedback heard in the visioning process and to develop strategies to support the community in achieving that vision for the town forest. This workshop has a slightly different format than the previous visioning workshop, with two parts: a presentation of the vision and an open house. After presenting the feedback and draft vision, attendees will be asked to prioritize the strategies on boards and will have an opportunity to suggest locations to implement specific strategies on a large map of the town forest.  

Step 8. Develop a Draft Plan

After the draft strategies workshop is complete, the steering committee is now ready to begin preparing a draft town forest recreation plan.

Step 9. Present Draft Plan to Community

Once the draft plan is complete, the steering committee should present the draft plan to the Selectboard and community at large. This presentation is an opportunity to showcase not only the plan but to highlight the public engagement in the process. Any feedback or comments from this public presentation should be incorporated into the final document. The official adoption of the plan is up to the community. While it is not necessary, a letter of support form the Selectboard regarding the plan may be valuable when seeking funding for plan implementation.

Step 10. Implement the Plan

Finally, the last phase of the planning process is plan implementation.  Fortunately, there are many resources available in the toolkit to help you implement the plan.

  • Andrews Town Forest

    Andrews Town Forest

Looking for specific planning resources? Check out the planning pods, that offer a collection of materials based on different themes from the planning process.

Planning Pods