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Planning Success Stories

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Columbus - Fall Line Trace

This 11-mile trail, the Fall Line Trace rail-to-trail project, was constructed by the Columbus Consolidated Government starting in 2009. This trail adds another amenity to the tourism product offered by Columbus-Muscogee County, and links to their recently opened whitewater rafting venue on the Chattahoochee River in downtown Columbus. The 2000 Columbus Consolidated Government comprehensive plan stated that the government had the opportunity to balance their transportation offerings by taking advantage of rails-to-trails projects by adding additional walking and biking trails to their community. This rails-to-trails project is one way they addressed this. This trail runs between downtown Columbus and Midland, GA, linking with the Chattahoochee Riverwalk, thus providing a 26-mile trail connecting Fort Benning to downtown Columbus, and points north. The Columbus Consolidated Government’s 2009 plan update reinforced the commitment to the trail by calling continual trail enhancements and improvements during the life of the plan, 2014-2018. Columbus-Muscogee County

Downtown and MainStreet Lunch and Learn events in the River Valley RC region

Throughout the River Valley regional plan are references to support for and development of the region’s downtowns. The River Valley Regional Commission has been facilitating quarterly Lunch and Learn meetings for the past two (2) years. While the meetings are open to everyone, they are geared to downtown development managers as well as Main Street managers. The goal is to provide staff development for these unsung heroes at little or no cost except their lunch expense which is always less than $10. Providing networking opportunities for people within the region is another by-product of the meetings. So far, topics have included Social Media, Historic Preservation Tax Credits, Volunteer Recruitment and Management, Festival Best Practices, Camera Ready, Geocaching, Constant Contact, and Marketing. Because of interest expressed by attendees, there have been several Social Media sessions. The RVRC Staff initially coordinated the meetings as part of a Rural Business Opportunity Grant from USDA Rural Development. However, because interest is so great, staff will continue with these meetings past the end date of the grant.
Macon County Community Garden Assistance

The 2013 update to the River Valley Regional Commission’s regional plan identified several needs and opportunities related to both local agricultural programs as well as community gardens in the region. An issue identified as a Community Facilities issue is the “Need for community gardens to help with access to fresh food issues in our rural cities.” Further reinforcing this, a land use issue identified states that the region is “Lacking of community gardens to help with access to fresh food produce in our rural cities.” Additionally, a work program item states that the RC will support “… providing fresh foods to seniors within the region….”

In order to address these issues and to implement various activities within its regional plan, the RV RC worked with its Area Agency on Aging (AAA) to plan and coordinate a community garden project for Macon County (2014). The AAA received a grant in order to do this. Between August 2014 and January 2015, the Macon County Community Garden Association was formed, bi-monthly meetings took place, materials were purchased, soil was tested, an irrigation system was designed and planter boxes constructed. Various members of the community donated their time, money, and resources (one local vendor donated a $2,000 shed), and the ribbon-cutting took place at the end of January. A number of local farmers donate their time and resources for garden upkeep. The garden association charges seasonal membership dues and a treasurer keeps track of the funds they raise.

This project exemplifies successful public-private partnership and community involvement. It involved the River Valley Regional Commission, the RV AAA, Georgia Aging Services, City of Oglethorpe, UGA Cooperative Extension Office, several local businesses, the RVRC, and members of the Macon County community. This project is replicable across the state.

Pennahatchee Creek Watershed Non-Point Source Pollution Reduction

In its regional work program, the RVRV has as a work activity: Identify and assess non-point stressors in watersheds with the objective to monitor and provide data and Best Management Practice strategies to local governments that will reduce sources of pollution. To address this activity, a plan was developed to reduce the amount of fecal coliform in Pennahatchee Creek from non-point sources, predominantly feral hogs and other livestock. River Valley RC staff implemented a targeted monitoring approach in the watershed from December 2010 through September 2011. The high number of feral hogs in the target area led to the determination that they are the primary cause of this pollution. Therefore, a BMP that was developed is aimed at controlling the hog population, including organized hunts and trapping. Controlling the feral hog population will have other benefits: less damage to the forests; less consumption of natural food sources; lessening damage to row crops, saving local farmers money. Through this project, the River Valley RC and its partners will implement at least 18 BMPs to address livestock point sources including, but not limited to, alternative water sources, fencing, composting, waste facility covers, landscape buffers, and other options.
Regional Downtown Redevelopment Assistance Activities

Identifying redevelopment activities, development opportunities and assisting local businesses and entrepreneurs within the River Valley region are constant themes in the River Valley RC Regional Plan. Following in those themes, and to help a local community develop, redevelop, and invigorate its downtown economic base, the Butler Market Analysis project was undertaken by the RVRC to achieve the regional goal of downtown redevelopment. Staff inventoried and mapped all structures and businesses within the identified study area, and layered this information with data from the economic software ESRI Business Analyst. After collection of the community’s most recent census demographics all available information was reviewed, supplemented and customized in meetings of the local leadership team.

This information can be incorporated into specific, detailed plans by the local economic development team to increase efficiency of effort and maximize the return on investment of limited financial resources. A Downtown Development Authority currently being created can begin operations knowing which existing businesses can grow because of available sales potential, and which new businesses to recruit/develop because an existing, specific need(s) is not being met. Such detailed information is not typically available in small towns. The city has already enhanced its code enforcement program to make downtown more attractive and enticing to new entrepreneurs and their customers, and the process of updating the zoning ordinance is already underway.

River Valley RC Bike-Ped Activities

RVRC-implemented bicycle and pedestrian activities have met with great success as evidenced by increased participation among individual participants and advocacy groups each year. Each event addresses numerous regional plan goals ranging from the promotion of, and improved quality of, alternative modes of transportation, marketing campaigns promoting cycling and pedestrian activities, Georgia Made-Georgia Grown, economic development, increased recognition and appreciation of historic resources, and buy local among others.

Another regional plan goal addressed is a safe walking environment for children. One area school has constructed grant-funded sidewalk and bicycle facilities as a result of one of several Safe Routes to School plans prepared by River Valley.

The numerous promotional activities are attracting increased local sponsorship and have received planning awards from state and national planning and development organizations.
• Activities have helped Columbus implement its Complete Streets ordinance
• Annual Bike to Work Days and Rides with the Mayor generate hundreds of participants in Americus and Columbus.
• Hundreds have participated in the annual Columbus Midtown Bike Around event
• Cyclists who do the “Tour de Farm” each spring travel a pre-planned, three-day two night, 100+ mile, marked route.
• Hundreds more, some from as far away as Alabama, Florida and Tennessee, have cycled along a three-city route connecting both of the region’s national historic sites, Andersonville and Jimmy Carter National Historic Sites.
Promotion of these events through the activevalley.org website has helped develop “bicycle” traffic in, and attract tourist cyclists to, the region.

Vienna Housing program : a PlanFirst community success

During the Greater Dooly comprehensive planning process, community stakeholders compiled a list of potential issues facing Dooly County. The first issue identified was the lack of a variety of housing types and the deteriorating conditions of some existing housing. Once identified, the housing issue was addressed in several ways, including:
•The Greater Dooly Comprehensive Plan Goal 1: To ensure the provision of a sufficient supply and variety of sound, safe, and affordable housing facilities for all residents of the community.
•Vienna Urban Redevelopment Plan- Implementation of this goal was set in motion by utilizing a number of approaches identified in the City’s STWP.
• An intergovernmental agreement with the Dooly County Building Inspector to implement a permitting and inspection process; adopted in 2008.
•In 2009, Vienna became a GICH Community and, using the Greater Dooly Comprehensive Plan as a guide, a work plan was established by the local GICH Team made up of a cross section of the community.
•City officials have also taken a more aggressive approach against neighborhood blight by revisiting the City’s Code, making changes where needed, and more strictly enforcing the code.
•Next on the agenda was to determine the condition of the City’s existing housing and this was done via a grant funded City- Wide Housing Assessment and assistance from River Valley Regional Commission staff. The study revealed that 2% of the City’s housing stock were dilapidated structures and 24% were substandard.

Funding for housing improvements came from a variety of sources, including: CHIP Grant funding for 2011, 12, 13 and 14; GEFA Weatherization Assistance Program; USDA 504 Housing Grants, and the USDA Housing Preservation Grant Program. This resulted in a total investment of $1,323,208 in local housing improvements. Vienna was awarded a CDBG in the amount of $284,877 for rehabilitation of outdated, overcrowded, and failing sewer infrastructure in 3 neighborhoods. And, recently, the City was awarded another CDBG in the amount of $500,000 for sewer improvements that will benefit 168 households.

An added result of the neighborhood improvements and code enforcement is 2 recycling collection stations that have been set up in Vienna for local usage. Citizens are now taking pride in their community and taking an active role in keeping the City clean and attractive.
With the expansion of one of the local industries and the prospect of another industry in the near future, City officials are currently speaking with a housing developer about potential infill development of work-force housing. This project proves a small city with a population of 4,000 does not have to have a large scale new housing development or a large local budget to be successful in improving the housing conditions in a community. Many resources are available to help address these issues. It just takes someone dedicated to seeking out these resources and then assisting property owners in applying for the assistance. Revitalization is an ongoing process beginning with one property at the time. It takes persistence and patience.

Wellness Training for Lay Leaders

The vision statement for the Human Services element of the River Valley RC regional plan states: Promote safe and healthy communities by maintaining infrastructure, supporting health and public services, and encouraging walkable development patterns that promotes healthy lifestyles for its citizens. Several activities contained in the work program of the regional plan have sought to address this vision in a variety of ways, from providing information and assistance to educational materials to developing programs on health and wellness to identifying lay leaders to address specific projects. These type activities were identified in the RVRC Work Program adopted in 2013, and extend education programs and resources on a regional basis, beyond the capacity of paid AAA staff.

WellCare, a provider of Medicare and Medicaid insurance programs, made a community grant in 2016 to the River Valley Regional Commission/Area Agency on Aging (AAA) to provide evidenced-based wellness programs, i.e., services or programs with proven success, to seniors and persons with disabilities. In the first few months of the program, thirty-eight persons attended the Chronic Disease Self-Management, Diabetes Self-Management and Matter-of-Balance Fall Prevention Programs in three area counties. Volunteer lay leaders who attended are now successfully presenting these programs in the targeted counties. AAA staff hope these are the first of many lay volunteers presenting peer-to-peer wellness education and training across the region.


Results found: 8

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