Manila seeks new Strategic Plan

Jack Durham
Mad River Union

MANILA – The Manila Community Services District may find out next month whether it will be awarded grant funds to update its Strategic Plan and map out the future of services in the small peninsula town.

The district has applied for a $5,000 grant from the Humboldt Area Foundation’s Technical Assistance Program. If the grant is awarded, the district would hire Heather Equinoss to hold a series of community meetings and surveys over the coming months to assist the update of the 12-year-old plan.

As the grant application points out, a lot has changed in the sandy outpost since the old Strategic Plan was approved in 2005. Although the district manages local park facilities, it no longer offers recreation programs as it once did. The district now leases a large part of the Manila Community Center to Redwood Coast Montessori, a public charter school.

Like other unincorporated towns, Manila struggles with how to deal with community issues outside the district’s legal authority. The district’s powers are limited to sewer, water and recreation, but community members have concerns about public safety, traffic, roads, lighting, homelessness, health and other issues.

How, or even if, the district should be involved in other issues would be addressed during the strategic planning process.

“Undergoing a strategic planning process that involves community stakeholders and community members in addressing these issues will help build board and community agreements needed to move forward and make effective change that benefits the well-being of residents,” states the grant application.

If the district obtains the grant, it would have the goal of completing the plan by July of next year.

At a special board meeting Nov. 7, Director Dendra Dengler said she hoped the planning process would not resemble Manila’s “visioning session” that took place in 2015.

The highly contentious “visioning” sessions involved public meetings and were centered on the future of the Manila Community Center and the McKinleyville Family Resource Center. The process consumed the board for much of the year, with highly contentious meetings and lots of finger pointing and crying.

Eventually, a divided board voted to hand over management of the resource center to Redwood Coast Montessori.


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