Acres of preserved farmland and prairie are making Carlisle, IA a beautiful place to live, and that’s a key economic development strategy for Carlisle Mayor Ruth Randleman.
Carlisle is located just outside Des Moines, and like many suburbs across the country Carlisle is working to set itself apart as a great place to live, work and raise a family.
“We like to think that as we enhance our community, businesses will find it an attractive place to come, plus it will draw people for the workforce,” explains Randleman, who is an Advisory Board Member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council. “If you watch growing, thriving communities, there’s always that vibrancy and quality of life that fosters the businesses and then the businesses then foster that back for the citizens.”
Land preservation, robust nature trails and water protection projects are all part of that effort.
Danamere Farms, for example, is a conservation housing development in the heart of town that dedicates 42 percent of its land to open space planted to short grass prairie. Danamere’s network of walking trails allows residents to enjoy the conserved land as much as possible. And soon the trails will go even farther, connecting to a farmland and nature preserve on the Fleming homestead and Scotch Ridge Park.
The extensive nature trails are part of a county-wide effort to make the Carlisle area a great place to live, according to Jason White of the Warren County Economic Development Corporation. Is the initiative succeeding?
“It hits home for me personally,” White said. “My fiancée and I just bought a house along the trail, and when we were thinking about where to buy, we realized we really wanted to be near the trails.”
Carlisle is taking this commitment even further by working with businesses and residents to create rain gardens throughout the town. By providing open space for rainwater to filter back into the ground, Carlisle businesses are helping protect the town from flooding, reducing water pollution, and providing habitat for birds, butterflies and insects. It’s a strategy that’s beautifying Carlisle and cutting costs for the town at the same time.
“I like to make my judgments on what’s paid back investment,” Randleman says in an interview with Smart Growth America. “What’s going to pay back to the taxpayer—if it’s 10, 20 years from now. Are we going to get the bang for the buck for what we’re doing?”
Randleman is committed to making Carlisle a better place to live and work, but her efforts go beyond that. She’s a member of the Warren County Economic Development Corporation, the Iowa League of Cities and The Tomorrow Plan which all work to improve life in Iowa. In February, Randleman visited Kansas City, MO for the New Partners for Smart Growth conference, where she talked about the importance of the community’s voice in development decisions and how to build public support for smart planning.
As a member of the Local Leader’s Council Randleman is helping her fellow mayors and city council members from across the country use these strategies as well.