Want a better community? Consider what’s important

Jeffery Fleming
Jeffery Fleming

Urban myths persist in many ways and forms. Many have to do with traffic, crime and what people really want out of their hometowns.

In a three-year study by the Knight Foundation that focused on the connection of the emotional aspect between residents and their hometowns and examined factors related to loyalty and passionate feelings about their communities, several urban myths were debunked.

The findings were all-encompassing, but a few items were of particular note. First, it was found that three things most correlated with attachment and commitment to place: things to do, attractive surroundings in which to do those things and an inclusive feeling making all feel welcome. These are not the usual list — schools, police and cost of living — commonly recited by those involved in relocating or those making purchase decisions. Think farmers market events.

Second, it was found that higher levels of fondness for the community translated into higher levels of getting things done, particularly as it relates to local economic opportunities. That is, when we love our hometown, we’re more passionate about it and that passion fuels the kinds of activities that economically pay off. Think happiness becomes activity, which becomes tax generation for the community.

For communities facing either of the above scenarios, the Soul of the Community study suggests little things like farmers markets or volunteerism or painting a mural — and doing those things in an inviting and welcoming way —  could ultimately pay greater dividends in terms of true community building over time than a few special interest groups hammering away at taxpayers for things like better schools, more police on the beat or more affordable housing. Think joining one of the dozens of civic-minded groups quietly building our towns.

If we want a better place to live, we can accomplish this by joining a grassroots organization that shares our passion for this great place we call the Grand Valley. Together, we will achieve a stronger sense of place, which could ultimately be the more effective route to better schools, crime reduction, economic vitality and even shape development forces in favor of neighborhood interests.

It’s not a myth. As a community, Grand Junction has numerous things to do within it’s attractive surroundings. By making it a place that grows in ways that provide more things to do for more people, we will build a stronger, more unified and engaged community, which could be the most valuable community resource of all.

Jeffery Fleming is an accredited urban planner and founding principal of Colorado Land Advisors in Grand Junction. The firm offers services related to planning, permitting and compliance and specializes in providing site design and analysis to the private sector. For more information, call 234-3466 or log on to www.coloradolandadvisor.com.