It’s a great week to be a resident of Artesia isn’t it? The Bulldogs are playing for another State Championship at the Bowl on Saturday. It’s the Christmas season. Light Up Artesia is tonight downtown. What more could small town residents ask for, right? I, for one, feel blessed big time to be here, now. The thing is there are thousands of small towns across America where the residents feel just as lucky to be right there, right now too. But small towns are an endangered species. According to the census bureau, more people live in metropolitan cities than live in small communities for the first time in history. The trend is toward consolidation of urban areas and the slow decline of small towns and cities. I don’t like that. I grew up in small towns, and I like raising my children in a small town, but they might not have as much of a choice about that as we have. How can we preserve our Artesia way of life for future generations? This is a questions I believe we better start asking and not just in a rhetorical way.
Small communities across America are deciding to take steps to preserve their unique lifestyle before they lose the choice. I have been reading about a project some small towns have joined designed to answer tough questions about their future. The Orton Family Foundation has created an initiative called “Heart & Soul.” H&S simply is a community planning program that brings together members of a community to discover what qualities and characteristics of the town are valued and make the city special. Then the community plans how to manage growth or decline going forward instead of just letting it happen. Various methods are used and there are some great success stories. I won’t go into a deep discussion of the methodology or specific examples of H&S in other areas. I have included links to some relevant info if you want to delve deeper. My main point is this: Artesia is at a crossroads and I would like to see us work as a community to decide how to preserve what we love about this town, while being realistic about how to plan for, and manage, the inexorable change to come.
Partly, this is a selfish hope on my part. I want Artesia and the surrounding communities to experience smart, planned, and steady growth because I want the real estate market to be strong for the rest of my life. I depend on a healthy economy for my living. But some of my wishes are altruistic as well. My hope is that my children, and yours, will have the choice whether to make their lives and raise their children in this great town. If they want to live here, I hope there are opportunities for them to be able to do so in relative comfort. I fear that future generations will be forced to look elsewhere due to lack of opportunity here.
That’s why I was so intrigued by the Heart & Soul Program. It seems to provide an excellent road map for cities and towns such as ours, where city leaders are non-paid, volunteers and simply don’t have the time nor expertise for planning long term, and community-wide. What will it take to attract new business to replace ones which might leave? What can we do as a city to attract the type of professionals which might be needed by new industry? I have no doubt that Artesia can be a town with a bright future, but it will take effort and an eye toward the future. My preference would be to decide how we are going to change as opposed to reacting when change happens – as it inevitably will.
As always, I welcome your comments. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your thoughts or comment here on my blog page. If you would like to join me in exploring community-wide, proactive planning programs, I would love to hear from you.
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