It was a beautiful spring evening after many months of winter. And in the city of Ripley, a new season is about to begin, too.
Last night the citizens of Ripley came together for the first time to discuss and share their vision for the city’s new future as part of the public kickoff of Ripley’s Turn This Town Around initiative.
It was particularly inspiring to see so many young people there. From a quick head count I think almost a third of the crowd was high school students! Sometimes it can be difficult to get “the youth” involved in community development initiatives – but it looks like this won’t be a problem in Ripley!
Much of the credit for that goes to great civic engagement programs at Ripley High School. Main Street Teens was already up and running – a youth component of Main Street Ripley. And since Turn This Town Around was announced, the staff and students have created a Turn This Town Around club. These kids are taking on some of the social media aspects of the initiative, and promoting ideas that are focused on giving students positive things to do in Ripley.
Keeping young people and families in their home communities is a big part of what our work is all about, and so this input is hugely important. Nice work, RHS.
We heard from a number of people that the town could benefit from a few cosmetic improvements – cleaning up some of the derelict buildings and applying a coat of paint here and there. These kinds of projects are sometimes referred to as “low-hanging fruit,” but we think simple and relatively inexpensive projects like this are very important and have a significant impact.
They help people see that real and concrete improvements are being made, and allow people who perhaps have not been involved so far to see that they don’t need any special skills or training to contribute to the development of their community – just a willingness to roll up the sleeves and help out your neighbor. It’s amazing what a coat of paint can do for a town’s self-esteem and energy levels.
Perhaps this might be the first step for redeveloping some of Ripley’s most iconic – but underutilized – buildings, like the old Village Cafeteria and the other abandoned business at the intersection of routes 21 and 33. This used to be the bustling hub of the community, until highways changed the traffic patterns and bypassed the spot. Now, Ripley must adjust.
As always, Turn This Town Around communities have one or two grand, long-term projects in mind, too. The vision of a community center or YMCA-type facility came up a number of times – somewhere for community events, sports and activities, a place for everyone from young families to seniors. This seems to me to be a vision very much worth exploring.
Many thanks to the City of Ripley for really stepping up and taking the lead on Turn This Town Around! (And for providing the cake and snacks last night…)
Energy is already building for the next Turn This Town Around Ripley meeting, to be held in mid-April (date TBD). It will be exciting to see what projects have begun to shape up, attract a team of supporters, and produce concrete next steps.