North Fork Valley Heart & Soul Community Planning Project

Location:  Paonia, Hotchkiss and Crawford, CO
United States
Project Description: 


In late 2011, the Orton Family Foundation awarded a two-year economic planning grant to North Fork Valley in Colorado—three interdependent towns of about 7,000 residents with a very rich arts environment.  The towns wanted to take control of future growth in a way that protects the character of their rural place; Orton’s Heart & Soul Community Planning program would provide the needed resources, including funds, technical assistance and a valuable planning framework.


The first Heart & Soul principle is “Engage everyone.  Go directly to the people, and go early and often—do not expect them to come to you.  Create relevant, compelling and continuous opportunities for participation that reach all parts of the community.”  This places storytelling at the core of the community planning process.


To kick off its planning project, the North Fork Heart & Soul Project partnered with public radio station KVNF to develop Pass the Mic, a youth storytelling and news program.  Over two years, fourteen young reporters will each cover a “beat” based on a North Fork industry—health, recreation, the creative arts as well as food, organic farming and wine making, and the energy industry of mining and oil and gas production.  The kids would go to the people in those industries and ask: What do you value about your life here? What matters most?


Local media groups, the Delta County Film Collective and Hutman Media, will help KVNF’s program director Ali Lightfoot create audio and video reports that are shared online and on the radio.  Two expected outcomes: an economic development plan based on North Fork Valley assets and a film documenting the youths’ Pass the Mic experience.