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 to 25 per cent 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.
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:
The 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.
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 wait for the pop-up window to download the rest of the content. This document touches on several goals and strategies that can help steer projects in rural communities to protect and preserve the rural character of existing communities.