Salmon, Idaho (population 3,033) is located in the Salmon Valley region, located in Central Idaho, and is comprised of 92% public lands. With a changing economy, ranching and recreation are keeping a tenuous grip, and local businesses now mostly rely on tourism to keep their doors open. Salmon recently experienced nearly unanimous support and $1.4 million awarded for a trail project after months of public involvement. With construction of the Highway 93 South Trail slated for 2019, the community now faces a design challenge to help visitors and residents navigate through town to reach the trail system. The primary aim of the workshop was to develop a new, shared identity for the city and region, engage community members who are wary of tourism development, and explore community-driven tourism strategies and ways of promoting the trails and recreational systems.
Over the course of the two-and-a-half day workshop, participants engaged in sessions on tourism and trails, placemaking, wayfinding/connectivity, and creative community engagement strategies. The workshop brought together a diverse group of 25-35 community stakeholders, including the executive director of the Idaho Commission on the Arts. While wayfinding, connectivity, and attracting visitors to town were central themes, one of the most important realizations for participants was that ‘wayfinding’ and ‘connectivity’ also serve the existing community and make Salmon more accessible and safer for residents. Key outcomes included the identification of possible safe routes to school through a place mapping exercise, and the beginning stages of translating community values into design concepts through a visual preference activity. Next steps for the community include using temporary, short-term placemaking tactics during the summer months to build momentum and engage more residents in exploring community identity, wayfinding, and sustainable tourism. For example, participants are planning a community dinner in May and organizing a bike to work/school day to test out some of the routes discussed during the workshop. The goal is that these temporary placemaking activities will generate greater buy-in to eventually introduce wayfinding and a possible branding strategy by the time the new trail is constructed in 2019.