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While I am incredibly fortunate to love my work—helping communities to enhance the characteristics that make them great places to live—it is no secret that I am always plotting my next escape to a river.
My adventures have taken me to six states and three countries. On every trip I’m struck by how at home I feel on the river compared to any other place. So how is it that somewhere new and frequently with a bunch of strangers can I feel such a profound sense of belonging?
A river trip can be defined by the quality of the river itself: its length, the rapids, the water quality, and topography. The Grand Canyon, the Rogue, the Selway and Middle Fork of the Salmon are highly sought after for these very characteristics. However, great river trips are defined by something much less tangible—the social interactions of the group itself. Communities, whether it’s a group of river runners, a neighborhood, or a town, require careful cultivation.More
A stop sign near a community health center in Ouje-Bougoumou in English, Cree syllabics and French: “Stop Stop Stop” (Photo by Dave Hoheschau)
Last year, my little family was relieved to finally settle down and buy a house in a small town in Vermont. I guess this was poor timing, since I just found out that Americans who settle down nowadays are ‘stuck’.
Being stuck means your prosperity is at risk—you can’t move for a new job or even the possibility of a job. Coined by urban theorist Richard Florida (“The Stuck and the Mobile”), he goes on to tell us that
“Many more people – if things continue as they are – will have to join the ranks of the mobile if they want to prosper or even survive....I’m saying it because it’s an economic fact.”More
Photo: Michael Dorausch
I recently tuned in to our local KBCO (World Class Rock) radio station and heard Death Cab for Cutie’s new song “You Are a Tourist”. These lyrics grabbed my ear:
And if you feel just like a tourist
In the city you were born
Then it’s time to go
And define your destination
There’s so many different places to call home
Music has the power to touch people, wherever they are in their lives. Given the right moment with the right mix of experiences, lyrics can be powerful “shifts in the context of community.”
In Community – The Structure of Belonging, Peter Block writes about shifting the context of community and creating an alternative future through transformation. He claims that all “transformation is linguistic, meaning we can think of community as a conversation” (p 31).More
Image: A boundary of the Living Bend site, transformed into a “linear greenstreet” with urban agriculture, native landscapes and an “integrated greenshade” featuring water catchment, solar PV and UV protection.
Fifteen years ago, Flagstaff, AZ, a small city perched on the edge of the Colorado Plateau, launched a community visioning project: Flagstaff 2020. It was the largest public dialogue ever conducted in Flagstaff, and the hot topics at the time were rapid growth and urban sprawl.
The result was a sweeping 25-year vision for the city, leading the way to some notable accomplishments:
completion of an Open Space and Greenways plan; institution of new logging practices in surrounding national forests; and a new downtown public square.
Two summers ago my wife Kate and I caught the cycling bug.
After years of ignoring our rusting bikes, something made us buy new road bikes (a terrific sale at a local shop) and begin riding around Addison County, Vermont, where we live.
Maybe it was friends, often couples, extolling the virtues, sheer fun, excitement and satisfaction of cycling. Maybe living in Vermont’s Champlain Valley influenced us: we are surrounded by world-class bicycle touring country.More
I work with people more than natural resources in our land use planning work here at the Foundation, so I sometimes miss the “purer” discussions around preservation or enhancement of a balanced, sustainable natural environment. That’s why I always eagerly await the next issue of Orion Magazine.
While the field of conservation has moved significantly towards the inclusion of humans in the discussion of and decisions about natural resources, the ethereal yet powerful spiritual elements of nature still find a constant thread in the articles, poetry and photography found throughout Orion.
Orion’s July/August was a different delight for me, however, as it looked at issues closer to home. It examines the interplay of climate change and peak oil and the responsibility of communities to plan accordingly and in a principled way.
The editors exhort the reader by asking, “When we take to the streets of our communities...shouldn’t we feel a sense of home that encompasses the past, the present and especially the future—a sense that our places are being made and remade to reflect the best of who we are and who we aim to become?” I’ve recently read two competing visions of how to answer these questions.More
The Orton Family Foundation looks to reach and work with a number of audiences. Most often we orient our work toward elected officials and citizen planners and activists, and we regularly work with a small city or town’s planning staff.
Town Planners play a pivotal role in how their communities plan and engage. Recently the Planning Commissioner’s Journal held an interesting LinkedIn discussion exploring the concept of town planners as change agents.More
Sick of news tethered to corporate advertisers? Of mainstream cultural and music programing? Tired of listening only to your statewide NPR affiliate? Want to get the word out about events in your town? Maybe share your quirky taste in music and the arts? Or stir up debate and discussion?
Learn more about low-power FM radio (LPFM) and start your own local station.
In a rare move that wrested some control from high-power corporate communications interests, the US Congress last December voted to open more bandwidth to low-power FM stations, and President Obama signed the Local Community Radio Act into law in January.
LPFM frequencies sometimes reach only a few miles out, but non-commercial, locally owned stations can pack a punch, opening the airwaves to citizens in rural towns and urban neighborhoods—anyone who has a voice and a message has a seat behind the mic.More