Step 4: Identify Threats and Opportunities

Identify issues that should shape your campaign goals and influence your project timeline

Along with defining why you care and identifying your allies, you'll want to learn about any special threats or opportunities. We focus here on threats because so many protection efforts begin in the face of an immediate threat, such as the demolition of a structure. But it's worth trying to plan for long term viability. Doing so before danger strikes will help you avoid threats and recognize opportunities, such as the chance to obtain ownership of a property, or a grant that will pay for educational materials.

It can be useful to distinguish among three kinds of threats:

Threats to the physical structure or appearance of a place
Think about the physical structure of the place you care about, including the architectural details or design that lend it character. Is the structure under threat of demolition, or is it suffering from age or neglect?

Threats to longstanding uses or to the activities that take place there
Think about the activities that take place on the site. Is this what you most care about? It may be that the activities are threatened even if the physical structure is not. Dwindling community interest, increasing costs of operation, and zoning and legal changes that regulate permitted activities are among the many factors that can affect the continuation of longstanding uses.

Threats to the "meaning" or story of a place
The meaning of a place can be threatened not only by destroying the structure, but also by ruptures in historical memory. Think about the memory or history, that is, the story that the place embodies. Does this place convey a forgotten piece of our past particularly well? Do you care about the place because it's a reminder of past events that have been suppressed, or recounted incorrectly or incompletely? Is it the last place left of its kind?

These types of threats—to structure, use, and story—are often intertwined. Still, sorting threats into these categories can reveal priorities, which may help you if you are confronted with difficult choices. For instance, you may discover that you care as much about an activity that happens at the place, as about the place itself. Moving it to another site and sacrificing the place might be the best or only way to preserve the activity. Although we'll continue in this guide to speak in terms of protecting a place, the suggestions in this Toolkit can also be used in protecting an activity that matters to you and to others.

When considering both threats and opportunities, it's important to consider ownership. Assess how much control you actually have over what happens to the site, and plan your outreach and your project accordingly.