Many rural communities have seen farmland eroded by encroaching development, or are losing young residents to places with more amenities and greater opportunities. Whether drained by sprawl or struggling to compete, how can rural communities address these challenges while remaining true to their unique character?
Are you a local elected official in a rural community and interested in smart growth strategies? If so, we want to hear from you.
Want to learn about new, innovative strategies for creating great places? Several upcoming webinars provide ideas and inspiration for local leaders.
Brownfields Policy Update from Capitol Hill
Thu, Oct 3, 2013 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM EDT
Join NALGEP and its Brownfield Communities Network for a webinar where the nation’s leading brownfields policy experts will bring you up to speed on the latest Congressional activities related to brownfields. Speakers will include Evans Paull of the National Brownfields Coalition, Judy Sheahan from the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and NALGEP Executive Director Ken Brown. The webinar will cover the key matters before Congress affecting brownfields revitalization, including brownfields reauthorization legislation, the outlook for FY 2014 appropriations for brownfields at EPA and other agencies, and efforts to reinstate the brownfields tax incentive. There will be ample time for questions and discussion.
Click here to register.
Montana Rural Health Initiative: Building Active Communities Upcoming Webinars
Transportation Engineering and Public Involvement
Monday, October 7th, 12-1:30 PM
*Registration information coming soon!
Making the Case for Active Communities
Wednesday, October 23rd, 12-1:30 PM
*Registration information coming soon!
For more information on the Building Active Communities Webinars visit http://healthinfo.montana.edu/RHI%20Webinars.html
The Fourth of July parade passes through downtown Nevada City, CA. Photo via Flickr user Darin Barry.
From the parades that go down main street to watching the fireworks in a nearby park, smart growth strategies and the Fourth of July go hand in hand.
Surprised? You shouldn’t be. The Fourth of July is one of the best days of the year to see great planning and thoughtful community building in action.
While celebrating our nation’s independence, remember to take a look around. Chances are you’re in a public space or great, walkable neighborhood that smart growth strategies can help to create.
“I’ve been in this town 10 years, and I love this little town,” said Juanita Syljuberget, a resident of Notasulga, Alabama, who works as a contract and grant specialist at nearby Auburn University. “There’s nothing fancy about it, but it’s a quiet little place, and everyone is very nice.”
“But it’s going to dry up and go away unless we do something.”
The plight of Notasulga and its 850-some residents in rural Macon County is not unlike hundreds of other small communities across the country. Years of changing economic and development patterns limited growth opportunities, and the very nature of remote towns left local businesses and municipal services more vulnerable than their counterparts in busy urban centers.
But while the story of a “Small Town USA” grappling with tough financial decisions has been played out countless times nationwide and even in emotional books and films, there is something that sets Notasulga apart: strong local leadership.
Towns and cities across the country in all types of areas – rural, suburban as well as urban – can use smarter development strategies to create stronger, more vibrant communities. Such was the topic of a discussion at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC, on Thursday. Anna Read of the International City/County Management Association and Stephanie Bertaina of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Sustainable Communities discussed strategies that can help guide growth in rural areas while protecting natural and working lands and preserving rural character.
Read and Bertaina identified a number of benefits rural areas can reap by incorporating smart growth strategies. Smaller towns and cities often a struggle to maintain open space and small-town character while still benefiting from development, and though growth can bring the economic opportunity many rural areas want, it can also bring traffic congestion and other conflicts. The speakers acknowledged these sometimes conflicting needs and explained how smart growth strategies can help towns strike a delicate balance. Smart growth strategies help create an economic climate that enhances working lands and conserves natural lands, while protecting downtowns and Main Streets and helping those valuable assets thrive. In doing so, smart growth strategies can help build vibrant, enduring neighborhoods that people, especially young people, want to live in.
One example of this principle in action is the Texas Historical Commission (THC). Through its Texas Main Street Program, THC helps communities across Texas capitalize on their unique, authentic character. For many small businesses in the state, the Texas Main Street Program is a key to survival. As Britin Bostick, who sits on the Paris, TX, Main Street Advisory Board and chairs the downtown economic restructuring committee, explained to the Daily Yonder, THC’s Main Street revitalization effort provided “a necessary framework for us to build our downtown.”
A recent poll by Smart Growth America has found that in the midst of a struggling U.S. economy, support for smart growth strategies remains high among Americans across the country and on both sides of the political aisle.
The poll focused specifically on support for sustainable communities: urban, suburban or rural communities that have more housing and transportation choices, are closer to jobs, shops or schools, are more energy independent and help protect clean air and water. Making communities more sustainable means generating more jobs, lowering housing and transportation costs and using limited public funds more wisely.
As the U.S. economy incrementally recovers, Americans want the federal government to stop spending into deficit and use the money it does have more effectively. Smart growth strategies do just that by reducing infrastructure costs at the state and federal level, strengthening local and state revenues and building economic wealth by investing in existing communities.