Opportunities are all around us, although sometimes it takes a special focus or a new perspective for us to take notice.
That is the central goal of the RhodeMap RI initiative, which this month will host its fourth and final round of Great Places workshops as part of an ongoing effort to identify a range of resources in the Ocean State’s communities and develop a collaborative, comprehensive plan for the future.
The upcoming forums – six in all, including a Greater Providence gathering set for Jan. 16 at 5 p.m. at the Buttonwoods Community Center in Warwick – will focus on opportunities for conservation and development. The gatherings are designed to share with participants what information has been collected thus far and to then seek public feedback to augment the existing data.
Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who is behind the RhodeMap RI planning process, describes the workshops as a “great opportunity for everyone to participate and contribute to a vision for the future of Rhode Island.”
“When we work together, our communities can strengthen and thrive,” the governor said.
We agree with this assessment and urge members of our communities to take part in the process. The hope is that the initiative will serve as a springboard for new policy, with feedback and data compiled and analyzed to make key connections and find solutions to existing issues.
Having local voices participate will be essential to RhodeMap RI’s success. In Cranston, for example – which has taken part in the initiative since its inception – the upcoming round of workshops will afford an opportunity to focus on plans to target existing centers and villages for new growth. In other communities, everything from conservation priorities to the economic impact of storms and flooding will be on the table.
While the collaborative nature of RhodeMap RI program is essential, it is also important to note that cities and towns will be the drivers of action.
“We are not trying to tell cities and towns where to have growth centers. We’re trying to provide them with the tools to make that decision,” said Kevin Flynn, director of the Department of Administration’s Division of Planning.
Rhode Island may be geographically small, but the volume and diversity of its resources are significant. As our state works to forge a new and inclusive economic identity for the 21st century, identifying and utilizing those resources in the most efficient and productive way possible is critical to our collective prosperity.
RhodeMap RI and the Great Places forums have an ambitious goal and also have the opportunity to make a real difference in shaping what our shared future looks like. The participation of our communities will to a large extent determine how successful the effort becomes.