By Gabrielle Gasser EBS STAFF
BIG SKY – Welcoming an audience of Big Sky’s who’s who, Sara Blechta, Chairman of the Big Sky Resort Area District Board of Directors, encouraged attendees at the inaugural Big Sky Community Forum to “be curious, non-judgmental.” .
The forum brought together community leaders and residents at the Wilson Hotel on Tuesday, October 26 to hear presentations from 38 local organizations and have the chance to engage directly with the presenters.
“Think of it as community speed dating,” said Daniel Bierschwale, BSRAD’s executive director, referring to the hybrid nature of the event which allowed attendees to hear the presenters and talk to them one-on-one. .
A community survey from BSRAD sparked the idea for the forum as a result of the district allocation process in June 2021. Bierschwale said survey respondents called for more communication and access to the organizations that make this community work. unincorporated.
“One of the strategic pillars of the district is to involve our community,” Bierschwale said in an interview with EBS on October 27. “We designed this forum as an opportunity not only for OSRAD to engage, but also for all partners to improve Big Sky together to gain visibility, introduce initiatives and generate an opportunity to engage directly with stakeholders. Big Sky residents. “
Throughout the evening, participants circulated between the Agate Room, where the five-minute presentations took place, and the Sapphire Room, which housed a table and a representative from each organization.
Presentation topics included public health and safety; Public works; Community support services; Education and childcare; Housing and planning; Recreation and conservation; Arts, culture and events; and economic development.
The low roar of conversation never ceased and while the presenters found themselves without a curious member of the community to chat with, they made a point of greeting their neighbors and speaking with other organizations.
Dustin Tetrault, Deputy Fire Chief of the Big Sky Fire Department, highlighted the value of the event and the potential for connecting with other organizations. He said it can be difficult to find time to talk about mutually beneficial projects, but the evening provided that chance.
“I thought last night was great,” said Tetrault. “Any opportunity we have to go out and be able to interact with community members in a place like this is always beneficial. “
Laura Seyfang, Executive Director of Big Sky Community Housing Trust, said the evening was a fabulous learning opportunity and applauded BSRAD for hosting the event.
“I had a member of the community who was really concerned that we didn’t get federal funding through the [Low-income Housing Tax Credit] price and was interested to know what we were going to do about it, ”she said.
This community member, Seyfang said, had an investment banking background and offered to help the housing trust in the next steps.
Community members in attendance also appreciated the chance to speak directly with the organizations.
“I think this kind of forum is good because it helps to see the future,” Big Sky resident Jim Glowacki said at the event. “There are little bits of information that come from different sources, but now when you see the collective group, they can all feed into that same source of information. “
Gary and Jill Marcinick, part-time Big Sky residents for 18 years, attended the forum to enjoy the face-to-face interaction and learn more about the community they are settling in.
“We were really hoping to learn new things, which I think we did,” Gary said. “There were a few questions we wanted to ask, which were answered. So, [the forum] … Really exceeded our expectations.
Jenny Muscat, district operations manager, said she heard positive comments about the evening.
“I think it was a big event,” she said. “We went there without knowing what was going to happen since it was the first time we were doing it. But it was great to see such high participation from partners and even members of the community in general. “
“I thought it was awesome,” Bierschwale added. “It was wonderful to hear the boots on the pitch at Big Sky really shaking things up and engaging with them one-on-one in the exhibit.”
The future of this event is unclear, but Muscat said the district will look to garner more community feedback on the event.
“Overall the turnout has been great and I hope we can do it again next year,” said Muscat. “We hope people liked it.”