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River Roots Redevelopment: Community Resilience


Community resilience has been defined as the ability of communities to prepare for, withstand, adapt to, and quickly recover from disaster or hardship. Hardships hit communities somewhat indiscriminately, and a seemingly successful community can still experience a decline. A look back at the history of many of our towns here in the Oil Region can attest to that. So what is the key to building a resilient community? As it turns out, there are a number of factors that contribute to the health and overall resilience of a community, but here are five that I believe are crucial.

Infrastructure. This includes facilities and programs in areas such as health and social services, education, government, energy, and communication. All these elements contribute to the overall health and well-being of a community and its residents. Without meeting the basic needs of its residents, a community cannot thrive.

Innovation. In order to create a lasting community, we have to be willing to try new things. Adapt. Continue to learn. Technology is making constant advancements. We can look back at just the last 30 years and see how much has changed. What will we see in the next 30? In the mid-1800s our region was put on the map with an energy breakthrough that would change the world. By embracing innovation, we have the potential to lead the way in new technologies and see another breakthrough that could again change life as we know it.

Employment. This element of community resilience builds on the two previous. A resilient community has sustainable job opportunities in a variety of fields. With a healthy infrastructure and by welcoming and cultivating innovation, employment opportunities follow.

Recreation. Down time is crucial to our mental health, and the Oil Region has an abundance of what is scientifically proven to reduce stress and contribute to mental and physical health: nature. Our rural area, with all its natural resources, is a prime location for recreation for both its residents and tourists. And yes, I know that tourism is sometimes met with disdain, but it’s hard to deny the positive economic impact that tourism (with adequate infrastructure) can have. Many small towns throughout the rustbelt and into Appalachia have been able to capitalize on their natural resources and in turn, bring in jobs and increase the overall health and well-being of their residents.

People. Possibly the most important ingredient in community resilience is the community itself—the people who live there. Residents who value their community and take ownership of its future buy-in. They are invested. These committed people help to guide leaders and decision-makers to build a stronger, more resilient community. Each of the previously mentioned factors is directly tied to how much the residents are willing to invest in their community.

I would add a sixth element that might be just as important as the previous 5: collaboration. Collaboration between people, participation from businesses and organizations, and even partnerships expanding across municipality lines are also important.

You might have noticed that all of these factors are intertwined. Each one is linked to the others, dependent and supportive at the same time. All this might sound elaborate and like a lot of work. Truth be told, it is. Maintaining community resilience is a constant effort. But I believe it is worth it. By working together, utilizing our resources, and expanding our vital programs, we can build a more resilient community for the future.

 

Rachel Brosnahan is the Community Engagement Coordinator for River Roots Redevelopment.

She can be reached by email at rachel@riverrootsredevelopment.org

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