It looked like an ordinary Facebook post: a snapshot of a flyer announcing a 2017 Valentine’s Day contest at the Nakusp Hot Springs. The text encouraged viewers to “like” the page and share the post to win a night’s stay at the on-site chalets.

Usually the Village-owned facility would have shared a contest like this only with locals. Instead, through the reach of social media, this message engaged with over 18,000 people and over 12,000 commented on or shared the post. While the page had been struggling to maintain 1,000 likes, it now soared to 5,700.

“We saw an immediate uptick in the sense of what our reach is and the kind of engagement we can get through social media,” says Terry Welsh, the Village of Nakusp’s Director of Recreation and Parks. “It’s actually phenomenal.”

Common Ground

This foray into the power of social media is just one way the community of Nakusp is shaping its future. The driving force behind this push is a process called the Nakusp Common Agenda, which residents began in fall 2014 and have continued with the ongoing guidance and dedicated staff support of Columbia Basin Trust.

While Nakusp is known for its physical beauty and welcoming people, the community has faced challenges. The population has fluctuated. There are fewer forestry jobs than there used to be. Like in lots of places, the many dedicated volunteers are getting burned out.

Facilitated by the Trust and overseen by the Nakusp and Area Development Board, a diverse group of people came together to identify a shared vision for Nakusp, collectively set priorities and identify concrete actions.

While some activities are being directly supported by the Trust, the Trust’s role is broad. It may provide leadership, offer staff expertise, source information, bring in outside experts or gather vital people together. Its aim is to listen carefully to the community’s needs, then consider if and how it can help.

Mayor Karen Hamling says the process has “given the community the ability to sit here and say okay, what is it we need, what do we need help with?

“What can we do now to move the community forward?”

“It’s been huge for us.”

Turning ideas into action

Several resulting initiatives aim to draw people to the area and keep current ones here by enhancing the community and increasing the range of economic opportunities, recreational activities and other local assets.

While the page had been struggling to maintain 1,000 likes, it now soared to 5,700.

The social media push is one example. Nakuspians were invited to attend a Trust-supported workshop put on by social media experts. Here they learned how to market the area through simple smartphone apps and the use of hashtags, and social media ambassadors continue to spearhead the #Nakusp efforts. The hot springs then contracted these experts to help them develop their own plans.

The community has also recognized the need to revamp its downtown. With Trust support, it explored possibilities through the Main Street Boost program of the National Trust for Canada, and has received additional support from the BC Rural Dividend to develop a plan. It has also made its downtown more attractive by adding lighting to its waterfront walkway, a project overseen by the Rotary Club of Nakusp and supported by the Trust.

Another strategy focuses on trails. As hiking and mountain biking are important attractions, the community received Trust support to develop a Trails Master Plan. The community is also exploring how to improve the economy through forestry, industrial lands, improved Internet services and agriculture.

The team at the Nakusp Hot Springs is solidifying their plans on how to use social media as an everyday tool, knowing they are doing it for themselves and for the benefit of the whole area.

“When we look at marketing, we don’t just necessarily look at marketing the hot springs,” says Welsh. “There’s a lot to offer in our entire region, up and down the valley. We want to market the region and then look at the hot springs as sort of the cherry on the ice cream.