by Vanessa Lynch, 2012 Your Town Graduate
Last week I attended an economic development workshop called
“Your Town Alabama”, where five small groups were given a hypothetical town to
plan and develop. It was particularly meaningful to me because the hypothetical
town was a close parallel to our own town of Wetumpka.
Like Wetumpka, this hypothetical town was rich in historical
and scenic features with a struggling downtown area and an agricultural
heritage threatened by land development and urban sprawl. In assessing the
strengths and weaknesses, it was clear our greatest challenges were also our
strengths, if we were intentional in the way we chose to grow and develop.
As economic and industrial needs continue to change,
Wetumpka will always have its natural and scenic resources as leverage. Our water, rich biodiversity, historic
and recreational resources are uniquely ours, and people are looking for that
experience. So, how do we tell our story?
We have to begin by setting the bar high for ourselves. What
do visitors see when they look around? Will our children want to stay here or
come home by choice when they are grown? Will retirees want to choose our
What we know for sure is that people travel for beauty. When
trees and flowers line our sidewalks and landscapes, the sense of pride and
value in the community increases. We are already fortunate to have a beautiful
landscape along our Riverfront, but just imagine what a little creative effort
could do for the rest of our town.
The answers to how it happens are here, with us. We can
start by asking more of ourselves and our neighbors by choosing not to litter,
and getting involved in community projects. By looking to our past before
selecting where we develop in the future. And by viewing the challenges we face
now as opportunities for problem-solving, to strengthen our community.
Wetumpka’s greatest asset is its people. And I have met
enough of you to know the talent and passion to make a big difference in a
short amount of time is here now. If you truly want to see change, don’t wait
for someone else to take the lead. All it takes is one person to make a big
This week I challenge you to do what you can, lead by
example and inspire the rest of us. Here are “Ten Ways to Support Main Street”,
taken from the Mississippi Main Street program to help you get started:
Pick up someone else’s litter
Act like a realtor and sell your community
Tell your history
Celebrate the Arts
Support existing businesses
We need people like you to make a difference, so get