Bringing a long-held vision to life, North Woods and Waters of the St. Croix Heritage Area went live October 16 with its online event calendar, Lynx. (NorthWoodsandWatersLYNX.org)
The name, a nod to the iconic wildcat of the north woods, also alludes to one of the organization’s top priorities: linking communities throughout the St. Croix Watershed.
From Solon Springs to Prescott in Wisconsin, and from Pine County to Afton in Minnesota, water flows into the St. Croix River. But many in the region don’t realize they have this in common— yet.
“Our mission is to connect people and organizations throughout the watershed and to celebrate our shared natural, cultural and historic resources,” said Marty Harding, Board Chair of North Woods and Waters (NWW). “Lynx literally links everybody together, no matter where you are. It’s for residents and visitors who want to find out what’s happening, and it’s for organizations, which can post their events.”
To build the platform, NWW Vice Chair Bill Neuman worked with ArtReach St. Croix to create an expanded version of its existing event calendar, St. Croix Splash.
“I remember that first phone call with ArtReach and the IT guy in Seattle,” Neuman said. “I was impressed by the potential to connect communities and provide a platform for organizations that might not have the resources to develop something like their own website. And it goes beyond that, because this really has the potential to connect not only individual organizations with the public but connect communities to each other and show new opportunities for collaborative marketing.”
Heather Logelin, president of the St. Croix Valley Foundation, which was an early supporter of St. Croix Splash, also emphasized the calendar’s potential as a catalyst.
“One of the great things about St.CroixSplash has been its ability to provide a ‘one stop shop’ for people wanting to know what’s going on in the Valley, often tempting them with events hosted by organizations they many not yet have heard of,” she said. “That said, I think it’s important to stress that this isn’t merely a calendar-planning tool, that St.CroixSplash – and, now Lynx – is a tool that is helping ‘connect the dots,’ creating synergies by bringing together people with shared interests. I am excited about the impact Lynx is going to have throughout the watershed, and – on a personal level – look forward to learning more about what’s happening just outside my home region.”
The calendar itself is the product of an inter-organizational partnership.
“Lynx would not have been possible without the extraordinary vision of Heather Rutledge [executive director or ArtReach] and the entire board of ArtReach seven years ago,” Harding said. “And it certainly wouldn’t have been possible without Heather’s collaborative approach.”
Rutledge was equally enthusiastic about the team effort.
“Early on when the North Woods and Waters conversation was happening, we talked about the kind of cooperation it would take to bring all these communities together,” she said. “And an online event calendar is, of course, a great resource to do just that.”
She added, “The St.CroixSplash technology was built to be expandable, so the possibilities for collaboration are part of the heart and soul of the project. … North Woods and Waters is expanding and improving it in every sense.”
The two platforms share information seamlessly, Harding noted.
“If you’re a community already served by St. Croix Splash, just keep using Splash and you’ll see events throughout the watershed,” she said. “They’re completely integrated.”
Although the platform is complete, the organization’s work in the project is far from finished. Carol LeBreck, a North Woods and Waters board member active in increasing tourism in the small town of Barnes, Wisconsin, noted that NWW now needs to spread the word about what Lynx is and how to use it.
“It’s clear that organizations in areas like ours need help with outreach and getting their message out about events and what they’re doing,” she said. “Lynx will be extremely valuable if it works, and by that I don’t mean the technology side, but that it depends on how aware North Woods and Waters can make people of this resource, what it is and how to use it.”
In recent weeks, Harding, Neuman and others associated with NWW have passed out bookmarks to help get the word out about the platform. At an event in Gordon where Neuman was distributing them, news of Lynx was welcomed with enthusiasm.
“They were saying this is something they’ve been dreaming of,” Neuman said. “Media is sparing in places like that and they just need an access point to get their story out.”
North Woods and Waters of the St. Croix Heritage Area is a nonprofit organization promoting the natural, cultural and historic resources of the St. Croix Watershed. www.northwoodsandwaters.org