Belle Fourche Gets Empowered!
It’s been one year since Belle Fourche began the Dakota Resources Empower! Community Coaching process and the experience has been a pleasant surprise for residents who may have been a little apprehensive about stepping into community engagement.
“The community has really embraced this. I’ll be the first to say I was nervous about learning a new way of doing things,” says Hollie Stadler, Executive Director of the Belle Fourche Development Corporation. “But Empower! has brought people to gatherings that we haven’t seen before. It’s allowing us to engage more people with fresh ideas and different perspectives. The energy has been fantastic!”
In the past, Hollie explains that most community meetings involved the same group of people who felt tasked to do everything and eventually got burned out.
“We realize the importance of new blood,” she says. “As we got into the Empower! Community Coaching, more fresh faces started showing up. We had a big October event where we formed Vision Teams, and I would guess 60% of the people weren’t our typical crowd.”
From that meeting, ten teams were formed and those teams are all working hard to turn their visions into actions and impacts.
The Belle Fourche Vision Teams are:
*Be Well Belle Fourche—A health and wellness team focused on rec center programs, outdoor recreation that includes more utilization of the community bike path/walking trail.
*Center of the Nation—Belle Fourche is designated as the actual geographic “center of the nation” with a monument and a Visitor’s Center to help promote it as such, but this team wants to enhance more ways of marketing and branding this unique designation.
*Find Belle Fourche—Promoting Belle Fourche through marketing and signage is the primary role of this team.
*Hay Creek Clean-Up—A team interested in cleaning up areas of Hay Creek that need attention. This is important to the beautification of the area.
*Home and Food—This team was inspired by a young girl who is interested in making sure people in need have food and shelter.
*Restore and Revitalize Downtown—This is a large team working to make downtown Belle Fourche a vibrant shopping and dining experience with enhanced aesthetic features.
*Riverview Corner—The desire to gather in beautiful places brought this team together, where they have visions of turning a scenic overlook into a unique community space with seating, a firepit, community garden and signage.
*Youth of Belle Fourche—People interested in making sure youth have access to a wide range activities with the youth engaged are part of this group, which has already involved listening sessions with high school students.
*Entrances to Belle Fourche—Developing welcome areas and signage at both entrances to town are part of this team’s vision.
In addition to all of these unique action items, Belle Fourche has a great example of community engagement in a unique collaboration between the high school’s career and technical education department and Belle Fourche Economic Development Corporation.
“After a housing study was done in 2013, we saw a dire need for housing in the area. The career and technical education students were building a new home each year as part of their curriculum, so we decided to make sure that house stayed in Belle Fourche to help alleviate our housing shortage,” says Hollie.
For the past four years, the development corporation has bought a dilapidated property, cleaned it up, put in a foundation and moved the student-built home onto the site, where it was marketed and sold as a quality, three-bedroom, two-bathroom residence. “It’s a win-win situation,” she says. “In the past, single family building permits in Belle Fourche were in the single digits. Now that we’ve put a dedicated focus on housing, we have seen those numbers rise. In 2017, we saw 21 new housing permits. More quality housing helps us recruit more people to town, it’s good for the workforce, it helps keep our young people in Belle Fourche. It’s all connected.”