By Brian Graves, News Editor
Saturday, September 14, 2013 —
Walking through the lobby of the Stanly County Agri-Civic Center throughout the day Tuesday, one could hear one idea after another.
“We need more walking trails.”
“It needs to keep the rural feeling.”
“We need to encourage our downtowns.”
“Wouldn’t it be good if we didn’t have to go to Charlotte.”
All of these statements could be heard as more than 100 Stanly County residents participated in the Connect Our Future community growth workshops.
The program is designed to encourage communities, counties, businesses, educators, nonprofits and other organizations to work together in a constructive conversation about what the county should look like over the next decades.
County Commissioner Lindsay Dunevant, who has been an active advocate of the program, called Tuesday “a great start.”
“It’s not so much about what we accomplish today. It as about what we can dream about for people who will live here for the next 40 years,” Dunevant said.
“I’m excited about that. I’m excited about the potential.”
Dunevant said the local region is the only one that does not currently have a plan as to “who we want to be when we grow up.”
He said that is where the Connect Our Future program comes into play.
“We can begin to get a glimpse as to what our future might be and begin working together to accomplish that,” he said.
Participants at the workshops were seated at tables topped with large maps of the county.
Matt Noonkester of the Centralina Council of Governments helped to lead the workshops.
“This is supposed to be high-energy participation,” Noonkester said.
“This is the largest population area in the country and the largest geographical area in the country that does not have an organizing plan and that is what this is all about.”
Each of the tables had a facilitator who led their group in a game of sorts where they would identify where people should work, live and play in the region as well as how to enhance and protect the quality of life as the county continues to grow.
The sessions also revealed some of the responses citizens have given in the previous startup meetings for the project.
Majority answers in those surveys show Stanly Countians are evenly split between downtown areas, parks, libraries and schools, natural assets and open spaces as the places that illustrates the best of the community.
They also identified what they they believe to be the most important features for the future of the county and the region are community parks and greenways, school, college and university campuses, medical centers, arts and community centers and rivers, streams and lakes.
Respondents would also like to see more sidewalks and trails as well as improved roads.
The project will continue to conduct the workshops throughout the region until mid-October.
There will be another series of public discussion events in the spring and summer of 2014.
Visit www.ConnectOur Future.org for reports and complete survey details.