Nearly 80 people turned out at the Blount County Public Library when The Raven Society held its eighth annual meeting on Sunday, Jan. 27.
Citizens gathered for light refreshments and conversation before the event program started. The meeting was centered around special guest speaker, Dr. Bridget Jones with Cumberland Region Tomorrow and her program “Visions for Blount County’s Future: Balancing Growth and Quality of Life.”
Kathleen Skinner, chair of The Raven Society, began the meeting with a welcome and secretary Doug Gamble introduced Jones, who is the executive director of Cumberland Region Tomorrow. “The topic of quality growth is an ongoing conversation,” Gamble said. “For three years now, we have been thinking about ways to help educate ourselves and our community about issues related to growth and ways to preserve what most of us find most attractive about Blount County.”
Gamble said Jones’ organization has been doing a lot of work in Tennessee in finding ways to bring people to a point of opportunity to “talk about what kind of place we want to have, and what we can do about it.”
Jones said, “Everybody take a deep breath,” as she started her program. “I realize that you all have a lot of emotion and investment in what you care about in your county. What you all are experiencing is no different than other rapidly growing parts of the state.”
Jones then went on to explain CRT, how they came to be, and what they have done for the Cumberland region of Tennessee. After the efforts of Vanderbilt University and others to create the Pierce Report in on Middle Tennessee in 1999, CRT was able to develop 20 year growth trend data, evaluate a base case scenario on current trends, and develop an alternative case scenario on the research and findings.
The organization’s slogan is “Collaborative action for quality growth” and is centered around the support and encouragement of growth planning, with emphasis on land use, transportation, and preservation of the rural landscape and character of the region’s communities.
As the program continued, Dr. Jones explained how current growth trends are not taking advantage of the areas that are already here for development, but moving out and into the rural and natural regions. Starting with a base case scenario, she showed how her home region would be growing similar to the region of Blount County. This was the basis of a five-part toolbox to preserve, reduce, increase, reuse, and expand in a county.
She said this includes lowering urban sprawl, which ultimately would lower the numbers of expendable factors including land consumption, infrastructure costs, and road miles built while increasing density. “It is not a communist plot,” she said. “It is a plan to preserve and keep the quality and economic growth for the region.”
Jones said the core of the toolbox is to allow people to reinvest in towns, city centers, and communities. “Design matters,” Jones said more than twice during the program as she showed multiple pictures of the progression of current and projected cityscapes and landscapes while also presenting how the program is specifically tailored for each county.
Jones’ pictures illustrated how a little landscaping can go a long way, even for the most unlikely places. The speaker said that for Blount County, there are many competing interests in the region to either promote growth or keep things the way they are. “If we can just meet halfway,” Jones said, “(you can) start right here, where you are, but think regionally.”
“Quality growth affects everyone,” Jones said, and in her closing words she explained that communities will have to set aside emotion and work together in order to be productive.
Middle Tennessee native Dr. Bridget Jones is an economic and community development and higher education professional, and according to the organization’s website, her work has focused on collaboration and vision along with project management strategies toward solutions to community and economic development problems.
Cumberland Region Tomorrow is a non profit organization that works in the ten-county Cumberland region around Nashville, including Cheatham, Davidson, Dickson, Maury, Montgomery, Robertson, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson and Wilson counties
At the end of the meeting, Booty Miller, board member of The Raven Society presented the annual Preservation Award to Dean Stone, editor of The Daily Times for his efforts to preserve the unique history of life in Blount County and the East Tennessee mountains.
For more information about CRT and their work visit: www.cumberlandregiontomorrow.org, and for more information about The Raven Society visit www.theravensociety.com.