A destination community is multi-faceted community focusing on the unique cultural and natural resources authentic to the area. These are often centralized in a region of complementary values and resources. These can be metropolitan size areas, small towns or large-scale unincorporated communities. They are typically natural resource or culturally based with a varied mixture of corporate and local entrepreneurial businesses. The term destination community comes from the fact that these communities become a destination for visitors, in migration, and both tourism based and traditional economic growth. It has independent relevance entailing far more than being a suburb or bedroom community for a larger area. As community leaders, we must focus on building and protecting these destination communities.
Placemaking is obviously place based. Our lives are intensely local. The quality of the place we inhabit and the relationships it fosters are the greatest impacts to our quality of life. We want to be a destination community for:
- Livability and Belonging
- Protection of Community Values
- Business Growth Opportunities and Jobs
- Controlled and Appropriate Growth
I believe that for several decades our local governments, particularly community planning, economic development, arts/recreation and tourism development functions, have suffered from a type of artificial dualism. They have been taught to separate things that are inherently part of a single system.
What should these “departments” truly be focused on at their core?
- Community Development – Creating and protecting “place” that is livable, sustainable and inherently satisfying.
- Recreation and Arts– Filling “place” with opportunities for renewal, self-expression, physical and spiritual growth.
- Tourism Development – Sharing “place” by way of hospitably allowing entry into the nature of community.
- Economic Development – Attracting appropriate businesses that fit “place” and provides opportunities for local prosperity at all levels.
As community leaders, either elected, professional, or volunteer, our goal should be to break down these artificial separations. Why did we decide to use our particular passions and skills to lead communities? What is the ultimate goal? There is a personal satisfaction in the multifaceted roles we must play. Our leadership skills are tested. We are challenged to understand the politics, culture and values of the demographic we serve. We grow and develop the people that we work with. Doing these things well has great satisfaction, but what is the bottom line need of our communities? I believe our purpose is to leave a legacy of place.
To build on some of my favorite architect Steve Mouzon’s concepts (original green.org,) we must build a legacy of places that are lovable, flexible, durable and frugal. In short, we must build relevant places; relevant to our unique vernacular of place. As a destination community we are blessed to do this from a cultural/nature/heritage base geography.
Our community systems must be lovable so that our citizens and visitors will care. If the resources are not loved, they will not be relevant, valued or protected. Flexible so we can meet present demands and meet future needs. Durable requires quality and timelessness so they will last. Frugal so our systems only use our resources at a pace we can sustain them. This takes vision and a sustained effort towards that vision. It takes systemic decision-making that brings the community closer to its values each day. This should be ingrained in the organizational culture.
Lovable is a particular challenge in system creation. So many communities, like people, seek to be someone different than who they are. It must stem from innate and authentic values of place that the destination community holds but also must celebrate individualism within that value framework and foster belonging and acceptance. People do not connect with a place where they feel a visitor; they become emotionally attached to a destination where they feel belonging.