The Emory-Obed Watershed in Tennessee, like many other rural areas throughout the United States, is experiencing changes in economic activities and social values associated with natural resources. Informed by the interactional approach to community development, this effort strove to build community capacity so community members could more fully govern their life according to their values and interests. We utilized key informant and focus group interviews to gain information about the watershed and to obtain different perspectives on resource-related issues. Data from key informant interviews led to the selection of a geographic community in which a community of interest was nurtured throughout a year involving monthly meetings, a community assessment and submission of a development grant application. It was found that gaining entry into the community and building trust among participants, and between participants and researchers, were critical in this in-place participatory community research. Lessons drawn from this experience applicable to similar efforts are discussed.