Across the country, communities are striving to expand and improve their quality of life. They are working hard to integrate traditional community and economic development efforts with the development of active lifestyle cultures. These strategies that make communities more livable and attractive are becoming crucial components of long-term efforts to enhance a local market’s retention and recruitment of a creative work force. They are a vital component of the new knowledge economy these communities need to be a part of.

Community sustainability, land and water conservation, green infrastructure, local foods/urban farming, share and maker markets, important bike/pedestrian friendly urban design, access to the outdoors and outdoor recreation are just a few of the tactics that make up an emerging community’s resiliency. The most innovative communities are using active lifestyle strategies as an overarching theme in their development efforts.

Evidence of this emerging trend is apparent in the pattern of U.S. economic and demographic growth. Famous destination communities like Boulder, Denver, Portland, Seattle, and Asheville are renown for their ability to attract a creative work force, and for the growth that has occurred because of their efforts. More relevantly, the successful efforts of communities like Dayton, Chattanooga, Knoxville, Duluth and Cleveland are transforming their rustbelt images and economics through the creation of parklands, greenways, and outdoor cultures essential to a great quality of life.

Through our work, we have seen the catalytic impact the emergence of an active culture can have on a community. Growing an active culture brings people together in new ways that can create excitement in the community. Once initial efforts are in place, excitement can turn into new ideas, and provide support for new community initiatives. Once established, the emergence of an active community culture can be a catalyst for related small business growth, as well as development of a vibrant art and music scene.

The key to positive community change is identifying and supporting those on the front lines. These important, grassroots community-based organizations need the right structure, skills and strategy to help them succeed in helping the community. Active Strategies has experience working with municipalities, non-profits, conservancies, special taxing districts, on the essential organizational development, strategic planning and real-life tactics they need in order to become a sustainable organization, that can, in turn, help their communities become great places to live and work.

Trash Bash photo courtesy of Great Rivers Greenway