Three Communities that Inspire You to Become the Community You Want to Be

It is the New Year and easy to get carried away with envisioning the future, but we must not forget that the point of making resolutions is to act on them. Asking questions of ourselves and those around us about how we can improve is often the first step in identifying a course for action. Once we learn the answers to the questions that we are asking, a new challenge begins: to identify where we can start acting.

 

As with individuals, communities as a whole are also planning for the year to come and envisioning the changes anticipated through 2015. An important guide for determining priorities and direction for change comes from citizen opinion; citizen feedback factors into budgeting, planning and the overall direction that will guide managers and public officials. Facts and figures alone do not make for change and progress – they require leadership and commitment to act on what is learned.

City of Elk Grove 5kOverFreeway
Elk Grove sponsors programs aimed at increasing exercise and recreation.

 

By surveying its residents, Elk Grove, CA identified areas where it could focus to improve quality of life: in economy, livable neighborhoods, attracting visitors for recreation, fiscal stewardship and boosting city organizational efficiency. Elk Grove has created programs to tackle community priorities since 2008 and the results are paying off in increased resident appreciation of community. Elk Grove’s 2009 survey reported that 65{7d2d4cb14c544bbeb3cd4763dc2b1aa4e79f5bb51403ad6dac1e84ac9d980b0d} of residents would recommend living in Elk Grove; that number climbed to 74{7d2d4cb14c544bbeb3cd4763dc2b1aa4e79f5bb51403ad6dac1e84ac9d980b0d} in its 2011 survey and 88{7d2d4cb14c544bbeb3cd4763dc2b1aa4e79f5bb51403ad6dac1e84ac9d980b0d} by 2013. Attention to resident priorities has helped Elk Grove maintain favorable ratings. See more on Elk Grove here.

park city marc
Park City’s new Municipal Athletic and Recreation Center (MARC) improves residents’ access to recreation and sports.

 

Park City, UT has used surveys several times to set goals and budgets. In 2007, Park City earmarked $10.5 million to renovate the Park City Racquet Club, a major recreational facility, to improve access to recreation that residents desired. The result is the Park City Municipal Athletic & Recreation Center. Surveyed again in 2011, Park City residents identified community wellness as a major community priority resulting in the Park City Sport and Wellness Coalition, a group of over one dozen non-profits focused on sport education as well as overall health and wellness. Park City continues to look for ways to offer more amenities to its residents and has planned even more investment in recreation over the next five years creating a livable community year-round. See more on Park City here.

CB_Bus
Gunnison County provides a free shuttle between Crested Butte, Mt. Crested Butte and Gunnison

 

Gunnison County, CO is home to world-class skiing, mountain biking trails and picturesque mountain landscapes. Although a desirable area to live, housing can be scarce and expensive. Based on survey results in 2009, Gunnison County made access to affordable housing a priority. The Gunnison Valley Regional Housing Authority now owns and manages housing units serving low and middle-income residents as a result of strategic planning focused on bringing more housing stock to regional population centers. Gunnison County’s efforts have paid off, resulting in a noticeable improvement in access to affordable housing with improved resident ratings to match. See more on Gunnison County here.

 

Equipped with the knowledge of citizen opinion and priorities, communities can move confidently towards the future. Surveys are an important tool to gather the unfiltered opinions of residents; although not the final word by any means, knowing and quantifying resident opinion very clearly shows where community priorities lie. By strategically and systematically tackling the right areas, communities can make incremental changes that add up to big strides; what seems daunting at first becomes conceivable once we have a clear roadmap as to where our residents want to go. As we move forward through the new year, may we move ever closer to where we want to be.