This past Saturday, April 24, 2010, was Dover Pride Clean Up Day. This event, organized by Dover Main Street, brings together members of the community to spruce up the downtown area. My family has volunteered in each of the 11 years the event has been in place.
This year my wife led a group at Henry Law Park and I oversaw the City employees who were working the event, filling in for the Community Services Director. As in the past, the event was a success on a few fronts. A drive through Dover will show the tangible benefits (mulch, raking, pruning etc). What you can't see if you weren't at Clean Up day is the intangible benefits.
The intangible is building community. I have spoken in the past about the role I see my department playing in Community Development, and will probably do so many times in the future. On April 24th you had people from all sectors of the community coming together towards one goal, betterment. Remember while I work for the "City" of Dover, I am also part of the "Community" of Dover. One need not be a resident of Dover to be a community member, and I am not sure whether Main Street asks if you are a resident to participate. I doubt it.
Community building is a valiant effort. The all knowing Wikipedia loosely defines community building as bringing people together to improve various aspects of local communities. We need to build community and be a part of that community at the same time. This is true whatever the economic condition.
We saw evidence of that community building on Saturday. Groups of kids, Scouts, business owners and residents picked one of 13 locations in the area to clean up. The Community Trail got a good once over as did the Transportation Center and City Hall. People in teams of 2 or 3 all the way to almost 100 were dotting the central business district taking pride in their Downtown.
Main Street deserves a lot of credit. It organizes the event and Britt Schuman and Mary Krans work hard to give people the opportunity to give back to the community and take part for a few hours. Main Street is sometimes viewed as an economic development engine, but I see it (surprise, surprise) as a community development initiative which happens to have an economic component.
Main Street doesn't create jobs, instead it helps to refine the atmosphere downtown to encourage a sense of place. In turn that sense of place encourages people to want to work and play in Dover. Not a bad goal.
I'd be remiss if I didn't toot my own horn a bit here. Recently the Planning Department was recognized by PlanNH a non-profit group which recognizes innovative and sustainable planning. Dover's Form Based Code is viewed as both. Additionally, the NH Planners Association also awarded us their 2010 Project of the Year award. These are great awards to be recognized for and I am proud of our work.
As proud as I am of the awards (come on down to our office and check them out), I am more proud of being a part of a community that cares and is giving. I grew up here, my wife and I specifically bought a house here, and I like the idea that in 15 years (well maybe 20) my son can bring his family to Clean Up day and be part of the fabric of Dover.