Recently I assembled a secondhand playground set for my nieces. As I looked at a job well done I couldn't help thinking how much more inviting the yard was. A secondhand swing set and slide turned a formerly drab area of grass into a verdant playtime utopia.
Rural communities can take advantage of their space by creating enticing recreational areas for residents to enjoy. Investing in green space is an excellent opportunity to enliven a community. Trails, parks, playgrounds, community gardens and other types of recreation areas have myriad advantages. Not only will these projects beautify a community they will increase physical activity, camaraderie and involvement among citizens.
A beautiful area to gather and enjoy the outdoors strengthens relationships between residents and increases physical activity, which in turn lowers health risks and leads to a greater quality of life.
A rise in citizen involvement strengthens the bond between an area and its inhabitants. This type of connection increases local business, and reinforces community pride. San Luis Obispo, a town of 50,000 in Southern California, closed a street, turned a small parking lot into a park, restored a creek and connected the entire 'nature' corridor - consisting of several streets and through-building passageways - to the main commercial district. Before the project the downtown storefront vacancy rate was 40 percent, now it is virtually zero.
Getting people outdoors, sprucing up neighborhoods, fortifying relationships, and increasing involvement are all valuable ways to enliven rural communities. The simplest projects can really make a community flourish.
Lance Evans was an intern for the Center for Rural Affairs from March 2010 through August 2010.
The Center for Rural Affairs was established in 1973 by rural Nebraskans concerned about family farms and rural communities, and we work to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities.