In the wake of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, there was a question of what the future looked like for the residents of Smith Island in Maryland, the last occupied island in the Chesapeake Bay that can only be reached by boat. While the hurricane demonstrated the threat of natural disasters for coastal communities, residents knew it was only one of the many threats to their way of life. To find a suitable response and approach for the future, the county launched the Smith Island Community Visioning Process to take a hard look at what could be done to preserve the way of life and community of spirit that makes Smith Island a special place.
Working with funds from the state, CBI and the Horsley Witten Group came together to design a process that would engage a diverse set of local community members, as well as county and state officials to create a road map for the coming decades. Over nine months, the Visioning Process used community surveys, community meetings, expert information, and a steering committee to draft and provide feedback on a plan to address the issues the Smith Island community faced.
Through this community-driven process, clear priorties and goals emerged for the community. These included: preserving the lifestyle and livelihood of watermen, diversifying the economy and leveraging tourism potential, developing and maintaining local infrastructure, developing and maintaining a reliable transportation system, and increasing the number of year-round residents on the island. With these clearly defined and interconnected goals to address, the focus changed to what could be done to make these goals achieveable. The Final Vision Plan, released at the conclusion of a nine-month process, outlined 23 concrete strategies to help address these geographic, economic, and social challenges facing the small island community.