When Imagine Durant embarked on it first Thought Leader Dialogue with the 4 Voices on the topic of Economy & Community they discovered the power of the Early Win.

From the explorations of what was working around here, what was not working and what people envisioned for the future, participants discovered a shared longing.

Everyone wanted a safe, accessible and enticing walking trail. The rapid growth of the city had somehow missed out on the connections of sidewalks, streets, country trails and university paths. But everyone of all cultures, ages, genders and communities agreed on the need and value of such a trail.

So out of the discovery of this shared longing, was born the idea of selecting the walking trail as an “Early Win”. In any project, an “early win” can become a model or prototype and an inspiration for the rest of the project. It assures people that something is happening and invites them into engaging in the project.

With Imagine Durant, the Executive Director along with several Board Members, Thought Leaders and an eager participant at the first Public Dialogue created an ad hoc committee to consider how to create a walking trail for Durant. Within 6 months the ED had written her first grant application to the National Parks Service to access their services for developing a plan for the trails project. Within months of submitting the application the committee learned of their success at receiving the grant and they organized the visit from the National Parks Planner.

Before long, the trail had a name: the Nowa Oka Trail – which is Choctaw for “Water Walk” – capturing both the intention to create a trail that followed Durant’s natural water courses and the indigenous culture in the name. The ad hoc committee quickly transformed into a standing committee with a Chair (that eager participant from the first Public Dialogue) and a format for a Plan-to-Plan.

The Early Win project then selected its own early win by opening a section of the trail connected to the campus of Southeastern Oklahoma State University – the Shuler Loop. To great acclaim and appreciation, the public turned out for the official opening.

Encouraged by their early success, the committee has gone on to submit another grant application to the organization supporting the re-purposing of old rail beds – and received a grant (worth close to five hundred thousand dollars) to build a pedestrian bridge along the old rail line. Not only that, but the committee has stepped into assist the City to contribute its required share of the funding by setting up a crowdfunding process to collect the money – so the City did not use taxes for this project.

This ongoing example of the Early Win  of the Nowa Oka trail has had a major collective impact on Durant. It has demonstrated the sincerity and commitment of Imagine Durant not only to create a unifying Vision for the city but also to develop the strategies to implement it.