MATTOON -- Having a thriving workforce and a robust economy are among the top six goals that have been developed as part of the ongoing Mattoon in Motion community planning effort.

The other top goals for Mattoon are becoming a regional destination for the arts and other special events, nurturing young residents through community involvement and skills development, enhancing parks and recreation resources, and encouraging the development of high quality housing to meet the needs and budgets of families of all sizes.

Participants in the Mattoon in Motion effort set these goals during three previous meetings and they started prioritizing strategies for accomplishing these goals at Thursday's meeting in the Mattoon Public Library. For example, the parks and recreation goals team suggested sharing an inventory of current resources and publicizing efforts to develop a dog park, bike trail extension and other new resources.

The Mattoon in Motion community planning effort is part of the MAPPING program, offered through the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs at Western Illinois University. Institute staff members have been helping lead the meetings, and the final meeting in the series is scheduled for 5:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday in Lake Land College Webb Hall 081.

Institute Manager Gisele Hamm said the various goal teams will meet at the final meeting with representatives of various organizations that offer resources for fulfilling community planning goals. She said some of these organizations include the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Illinois Department of Transportation, Small Business Development Centers, and Coles Together.

Once the initial meeting series concludes, Mattoon in Motion participants will schedule a town meeting to present their goals and strategies to the wider community and to encourage more residents to get involved in this effort.

"If you guys are innovative, determined and maintain a positive attitude, you can make it happen," Hamm said of the Mattoon in Motion goals. She added that a coordinating council will be formed to ensure that progress continues to be made on the goals after the town meeting.

Community and economic development specialist Linda Lee Blaine said one of the keys to success is to get many community members involved and not just rely on a handful of civic leaders to do everything. She said Mattoon in Motion participants should celebrate their goal achievement successes by sharing photos and articles with the community, and they should not let their momentum stop when they achieve a goal.

MAPPING is a participant-driven planning process. This process involves local leaders and volunteers creating a long-range vision for their community's future and a plan of action for achieving it.

The Mattoon Chamber of Commerce has recruited approximately 60 participants from businesses, churches, civil groups, education, health care and other segments of the community to take part. The Mattoon Area Community Foundation helped arrange for the MAPPING program to be offered locally. Monetary donations and sponsorships from the community are paying for the program costs.

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