Conservationists and advocates in the Borderlands area of RI and CT are stressing the need to “reinvent the village.” These towns are absorbing new growth while conserving and enhancing the natural amenities that make this region unique.
The largest patch of mostly undeveloped lands between Boston and Washington, DC, the largely rural Borderlands region is even visible in nighttime satellite imagery, showing up as a noticeable dark spot amid the eastern seaboard’s bright lights.
How might citizens best shape the future of the Borderlands, home to some 200,000 people and within an hour drive of more than 3 million people? How can the 20-odd area towns adjust to growth pressures without losing their distinctive character—their heart and soul? How can they develop innovative, 21st century solutions to issues like affordability, sprawl, economic sustainability and environmental conservation? Residents of the Borderlands began meeting to wrestle with those questions, which led to the creation of the Village Innovation Pilot in 2007, in which citizens of Killingly, Connecticut and Exeter, Rhode Island are piloting processes to balance the challenge of absorbing new growth with safeguarding the unique qualities that make their communities great places to live.
The process used an innovative combination of public outreach and facilitation methods, tools like the Growth Chip Game and the Discovery Process, and implementation projects to start making progress.