The interdependence of successful towns and the rural landscape
As I wrote two years ago, a successful rural landscape – working farms and forests, and natural areas that last – is utterly dependent on successful town (and smaller city) centers that attract investment, residents and businesses that might otherwise take the form of suburban sprawl. Lee Epstein and I followed up that article with another arguing the other side of the coin: the success of rurally-based towns is dependent on a successful working landscape. Indeed, Lee and I have been writing about various aspects of this issue since this blog was started over five years ago. The rural-urban dynamic had a lot to do with why both of us became conservationists in the first place and why, later, we came to care about cities, towns, and development patterns.
A small but regionally important nonprofit conservation organization, the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, recognized this relationship in 2011 by creating a Center for Towns to support Maryland communities east of the Chesapeake Bay. Chuck Marohn and I were honored to speak at the Center’s launch in the historic small city of Easton.
Maryland’s Eastern Shore is a special place not only because of its 300-year old communities and abundant farmland, shoreline and wetlands but also because it remained relatively isolated from the large metropolitan regions of Baltimore and Washington, DC until the Chesapeake Bay Bridge was built in the 1950s. Even after the four-mile span was constructed (at the time the longest steel bridge in the world), the Shore was initially better known as a conduit for city dwellers heading to the Atlantic beaches of Delaware and far southeastern Maryland than as the gem that it is.
The Conservancy’s Center for Towns was formed to help this relatively unspoiled region remain a place of unique natural beauty and history. The Center was (and is) a terrific idea that two months ago was awarded the state’s inaugural Sustainable Growth Award for Leadership and Service. Watch this video to see my friends Jacob Day, Dru Schmidt-Perkins, their colleagues, and various officials show you why their cause is important:
- The link between sustainable farming and sustainable communities (February 20, 2013)
- Are Main Streets a thing of the past? Is that OK? (February 4, 2013)
- The fall - and rise - of small downtown America (by Lee Epstein) (September 7, 2012)
- Let's link the working rural landscape to the sustainability agenda (with Lee Epstein) (March 1, 2012)
- Does the sustainable communities agenda have something to offer rural America? (December 7, 2011)
- The link between thriving towns and a sustainable rural landscape (March 18, 2011)
- Are you ready for the country? Rural communities & smart growth (part 1 of 2) (August 3, 2010)
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Kaid Benfield writes about community, development, and the environment on Switchboard and in the national media. For more posts, see his blog's home page. Please also visit NRDC’s sustainable communities video channels.