How to master plan rural communities for improved quality of life

Article By:

Principal | Urban Designer

Good land stewardship promotes sustainable rural development. Where the economic base of rural areas improves, the environmental and cultural heritage is protected and preserved, ultimately enhancing the lives of the rural communities.

Rural communities are home to approximately 20% - 25% of residents, across Canada and the United States. These residents experience a unique environment and quality of life that differs from urban communities. Rural characteristics, such as: a dispersion of low population density and an expansive rural landscape, all challenge the notion of compact, mixed-use complete communities.

Within the diversity of rural communities, they usually share a basic set of planning frameworks that we can categorize into economic, social, environmental, and public health goals. Depending on specific locations, jurisdictions and engagement with the residents, these goals break down into more specific strategies and actions that can positively influence the local socio-economy, the built environment and the quality of life for the residents.

A thriving framework for rural communities

Most rural communities typically follow planning strategies set by their respective government.

This framework allows the government to align capital investment with creating opportunities for growth and diversity within rural communities. For example, in Canada, the Rural Economic Development Strategy outlines a whole-of-government approach to meeting the economic and social development and sustainability needs of rural Canada. The programs and initiatives for rural communities include:

At the provincial/state level, this is commonly where rural planning meets public health, concerning identifying key factors that influence health promotion and disease prevention and medical assets and infrastructure.

For example, in Ontario, the Key Determinants of Health are:

  • Income and Social Status: ability to access appropriate and safe housing, food, and health resources
  • Social Support Networks: support of family, friends, and community impacts health
  • Education and Literacy: level of education influence job opportunities and income
  • Employment / Working Conditions: job security in terms of having a steady job and a safe working environment impact health
  • Social Environments: refers to the strength of social networks within a particular community
  • Physical Environment: includes both the natural and human-built environment
  • Personal Health and Practices and Coping Skills: refers to a person’s knowledge and behaviors (lifestyle habits) that may impact resiliency to change.
  • Healthy Child Development: includes factors that may influence early childhood development, including safe, positive pregnancies, parenting and child-friendly neighborhoods
  • Biology and Genetic Endowment: genetic endowment contributes to predisposition to certain diseases; biology may influence response to sources of stress, whether physical or mental
  • Health Services: access to appropriate services to restore, maintain, and promote health and prevent illness
  • Gender: level of gender equality may impact health
  • Culture: language and beliefs influence people’s behaviors, access to health information, and interaction with the healthcare system

Improved quality for rural communities means higher value

Nadi Group has been privileged to work with many rural municipalities to help improve the quality of life for rural residents through innovative community design and land use planning, Active Transportation, planning for Special Age Groups and cultural strategies and revitalization.

Integral to the value we bring is a community engagement process that includes a visioning exercise and evaluation of existing assets to help stakeholders and residents recognize planning policies, strategies, and visions within their local comprehensive plans that promote healthy living and identify areas to improve.

Although we intend this document for use in rural communities, it will also help other interested community members advocate for healthier communities and populations. Our objective is to share several projects—from streetscape and park revitalizations to master-planned communities and eco-tourism resorts—that support an improved and thriving quality of life for rural communities.

In conclusion

The path towards any sustainable rural community focuses on economic, social, environmental and public health goals -bridging the gap between rural municipalities and the residents.

To view the case studies that accompany this piece, please go here.

3150 Livernois Road,
Unit 136
Troy, Michigan
Toll: 844-669-6234

289 Garry Street,
Unit 300
Winnipeg, Manitoba
R3C 1H9
Toll: 844-669-6234

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