Regular folks from all walks of life are invited Tuesday to share their visions of the valley's future in the first of seven town hall meetings to be held throughout Stanislaus County.
Anyone and everyone can attend Tuesday's kickoff meeting in Salida of the San Joaquin Valley Blueprint Process. Others will be held next month in Turlock, Oakdale, Ceres, Patterson and south Modesto, plus one in Spanish in Modesto.
"If people care about the future and what they want the valley to look like in the next 50years, they should show up and provide their input," said Lark Downs, senior regional planner with the Stanislaus Council of Governments. The agency is the Blueprint's lead sponsor in the county.
Through small- and large-group discussions and hands-on activities, facilitators hope to identify residents' most cherished values and use them to develop "guiding principles," Downs said.
A second round of workshops later this year will build on those principles to develop growth scenarios, to help shape Stanislaus County during the next five decades.
Similar workshops are being held in other counties up and down the valley. Those in Merced County, for example, concluded last month.
Modesto's Great Valley Center eventually will help meld the reports into a cohesive vision for the entire San Joaquin Valley.
"We will work on a regional level to make sure they are integrated, they are in sync and that they are reflective of the issues and concerns of the region," said Carolyn Lott, Great Valley Center senior programs manager.
Downs said it's important that the town hall meetings attract more than builders and environmentalists, though they certainly are invited to participate.
"We especially encourage young people to attend — after all, they are the ones who will be living in our vision for the future," an invitation flier reads.
Most important, Downs said, is a willingness to imagine the future and plan for it now.
"What we're doing here is pretty darned important," Downs said.
"It's tough to change course down the road."