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Building a Vibrant Community – Chapter 9

ELKINS — Improving the appearance of a community does not require a huge investment. Consider someone who owns a home, adding a coat of paint can improve how the house looks and feels. While an addition to the house might be nice, the expense is not always necessary. The same is true of a community. Simple, quick fixes can make a big impact!

How does a community get started? First walk – don’t drive – through the downtown or neighborhood. Take time to really look at the sidewalks, the roads, the crosswalks, the trees, the upper stories of buildings/houses and the windows. Is walkable? Are trash cans appropriately placed? Are there benches? Bicycle trails? Is street and storefront signage cluttered? Is there litter? Are weeds growing at inappropriate places? You may notice things that you never noticed before.

As a community, we don’t get a second chance to make a great first impression. Try to examine Elkins from the viewpoint of a first time visitor. What is the first thing visitors see? Has the community created a gateway to Randolph County and beyond that makes people feel as if they have arrived at a special destination?

Another factor to consider are the community landmarks. Are they welcoming and well maintained? Is the community clean and green? The way a city is kept says a lot about how residents feel about their community.

Once needs are identified, be intentional about making changes. Observe where people go and how they use spaces. Implement a small change where it will have the largest impact. Small changes are less expensive and often less controversial. Make the small change and see how it works. Then evaluate and implement what can make the change even better. Often small incremental changes are better than a big project. These are low-cost, high-return investments which occur from the bottom up rather than the top down.

When considering a change project, be proactive and don’t want until something is broken to get involved. Small repairs can save a lot of money and increase community pride.

Who can make changes in the Elkins? Anybody and everybody. Picking up litter or pulling weeds can be done anytime. Other projects can be coordinated through the City, Elkins Main Street, Our Town, Make it Shine, the Chamber, or any of the other great organizations in Elkins/Randolph County. These organizations are waiting for someone to step forward, raise their hand, and say, “I want to help.”

People will notice small changes, which will lead to more changes, which will lead to a vibrant community. Your involvement is an important piece in this journey.

This outline is from “Building a Vibrant Community” by Quint Studer. Compliments of Tygart Valley Orthopedics, the Elkins-Randolph County Chamber has free copies of the book available to those who are interested.

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