• Riding the Trail to Revitalization: Rural and Small Town Trail-Oriented Development

    Trace Trail bike race

    Trail-based development is an exciting opportunity to create engaging, healthy, and vibrant small towns and rural communities. The 31-mile-long Tammany Trace Trail in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana and the 2.4 mile-long Radnor Multipurpose Trail in Radnor Township, Pennsylvania have both added value to the communities and become important amenities for locals and visitors alike. A major challenge facing many rural American communities is strengthening and diversifying the economy. Making a place welcoming, beautiful, and usable for the community while also creating an attractive setting for new business investment is a key step in development and ensuring a vibrant future for communities. “Trail-Oriented Development” (TrOD) is a tool which capitalizes on trails as community amenities and leverages the placemaking and development potential adjacent to trails and has been shown to be a powerful economic engine for small towns and rural communities. 

  • Building Connections and Communities: The Rural Creative Placemaking Summit

    This past October, Art of the Rural and the Rural Policy Research Institute (RUPRI) hosted the Next Generation: Rural Creative Placemaking Summit at the University of Iowa. The summit, sponsored by the NEA, USDA, and the University of Iowa, was designed to enhance cross-sector collaboration, elevate intercultural perspectives within the field, and foster greater investment for rural creative placemaking. This summit provided learning lessons from different contexts and geographies and emphasized the importance of rural creative placemaking as a strategy for community development. A key theme at the conference was that collaboration is key for successful development.

  • Local Food Systems and Rural Development

    A farmers’ market in Corbin , KY  helps regenerate Main Street and fosters excitement within the community about future development. Meanwhile, a community school garden in Postville, IA provides a setting for social interaction and encourages physical activity and nutrition education for local youth.  Farmers’ markets, food trucks, and community gardens are all tactics rural communities can use to encourage and sustain agricultural business activities and improve local food system accessibility.  Local food systems are important for the health, sustainability and economic vitality of rural communities. They can stimulate additional business activity within the local economy, improve business skills and opportunities, spur consumer spending at other businesses, encourage healthier food choices, and increase programming and activities which draw people to places.
  • Thriving Live Oak

    Painted Storefronts

    It’s a Friday night in Live Oak, Florida (pop. 9,974) and Festival Park is bustling. Neighbors stream into downtown to see live music and a family movie screening after dark. All ages are out, music echoes off the downtown buildings, and the events spill into the street, over to the emerald green lawn of Millennium Park.

    This vibrant monthly event, First Fridays, held since Spring 2015, is a far cry from the scene in June 2012 in the aftermath of tropical storm Debby, when he site of these two parks was a large sinkhole that caused several buildings to be demolished. With the initial repairs needed to make the space stable and usable, community members, including Katherine Allen from the Suwannee County Extension Office, decided the city had to do more than just rebuild, but to build back a stronger community.

  • Franklin, NH: Going Strong, One Year after a CIRD Community Workshop

    Franklin residents tour new store
    Exciting changes are taking place in Franklin, NH (pop. 8,499), April 2016 host to the Franklin for a Lifetime community design workshop. 
    A shared community vision to create a town for residents of all ages has activated coordinated efforts to spur economic development downtown, create quality public spaces, encourage riverfront revitalization, and spur the development of a variety of housing types.
    Last month residents of Franklin gathered to celebrate and tour the progress of the last year: a total of over $82,000 in grants secured, multiple new businesses, a rejuvenated riverfront and “art in the park” as well as more exciting changes on the horizon. One thing is for sure, Franklin is showing no signs of slowing down.