Spurring Community Economic Development In 2011

CLN All Participants Congress2011 was a very busy year for the Conservation Leadership Network in the arena of community economic development! In addition to offering our national Balancing Nature and Commerce course – featuring a newly condensed 3-day format, we also worked with communities around the country on place-based initiatives seeking to develop regional strategies for generating economic development while safeguarding their community character and natural assets! Specific regions included the Heart of the Continent Region spanning upper Minnesota and northwest Ontario, the Blue Ridge Parkway Region covering the states of Virginia and North Carolina, and the Appalachian Mountain Region ranging from Delaware, New York to Muscle Shoals, Alabama!

The Heart of the Continent Partnership (HOCP) spanning the US-Canadian border is a very exciting initiative for several reasons. Besides the obvious beauty of the region (geographic area encompasses over 5.5 million acres of land), the HOCP initiative is bi-national and represents a strong partnership between the major public lands, i.e., the Superior Forest, Voyagers National Park, Quetico Provincial Park and Parks Canada, in addition to the surrounding communities and the Lake Superior Band of the Chippewa Tribe. In October 2011, ten community teams converged at the International Community Congress offered in partnership with The Conservation Fund held in the Heart of the Continent Region. This powerful convergence was unprecedented and teams left with action plans to spur community economic development, connect the region and the history transcending the border, and foster tremendous partnerships for the benefit of residents and future visitors to the region! Moreover, the region is in the process of conducting a longitudinal study of the HOCP initiative to spur sustainable community economic development including the impacts from the International Community Congress. For more information visit the HOCP website.

The iconic Blue Ridge National Parkway celebrated its 75th anniversary last year and invited the Conservation Leadership Network to work with the Park staff and the surrounding communities to develop specific action plans for implementing recommendations from the 75th anniversary that will strengthen the Parkway and its surrounding communities for the next 75 years! Actions plans ranged from focusing on wayfaring to comprehensive regional marketing to protection of viewsheds for the benefits of residents and visitors alike.

Our Gateway Communities Award Program with funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) took us on the road throughout Appalachia in 2011! In the third round of this program, five communities were selected to receive technical assistance in the form of tourism assessments and action planning workshops! In partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP), we conducted tourism assessments for the Town of Haysi in Virginia and the Muscle Shoals newly designated National Heritage Area in Alabama. Action-planning workshops predicated on the Fund’s Balancing Nature and Commerce program and the NTHP’s Share Your Heritage program, were conducted in Delaware County New York, Union County Tennessee, and Pickens County South Carolina!

Lastly, we worked with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to design a customized training program for their staff to build on the momentum of the Department in proactively engaging community partners in sustainable tourism initiatives.