A recent survey of the New Denver area shows that the vast majority of residents are satisfied with their quality of life, plan to stay, would recommend the area to others, and see a bright future for the community. Overall, things are good.
“We had a high response rate,” said Nadine Raynolds of the Columbia Basin Rural Development Institute (RDI) – the research institute that partnered with the Village of New Denver to conduct the study, “which means the results provide a reasonable representation of the community as a whole”. The Village of New Denver applied and was selected to participate in the research project which was to explore well-being and community development in the region.
“We were interested in knowing what our residents think about quality of life here, what contributes to it, what services they want, how we can improve, and their ideas for the future”, said New Denver Mayor, Ann Bunka.
Some of the most important factors that contribute to residents’ quality of life include the clean environment, natural beauty, and safety of the community, as well as important assets and services, such as the local health centre and public school, and businesses, like the grocery stores, all within walking distance. Another theme was the strong sense of community. “There is a sense of community amongst most residents here that help make this place even more special than it already is with all the natural beauty”, said one survey respondent.
While there are decent amenities for its size, residents want to ensure these assets and services are maintained, and expanded on, particularly with respect to more opportunities for youth, child care, seniors’ support, and more evening eating establishments.
Most residents support modest population growth, and suggest that more resources be spent on economic development initiatives. Increasing employment opportunities and sprucing up the downtown are important, however a focus on tourism does not appear to be generally supported. Concerns relate to housing availability and affordability, with a potential increase in vacation properties. There is a fear of losing the small town rural character and sense of community that has attracted and retained many of the current residents.
“While residents did not rate economic well-being as high, there is a very positive view on community well-being”, added Raynolds. “The area has a lot of strengths, as residents noted, and building on these is an appropriate community development approach”. Asset-Based Rural Development is an approach centred around the idea that communities should design development based on their strengths, instead of their weaknesses. Too many development initiatives start from the assumption that rural communities are essentially in need, and tend to focus on problems. Focusing on strengths and assets, creates a foundation for positive community and economic development.
As some residents noted in their survey comments, it is important to engage the diversity of the community, so that everyone can be part of the discussion and contribute to the decisions that will shape their community’s future.
The full details of the survey results are in a report which can be viewed on the Village of New Denver website.
Nadine Raynolds, Columbia Basin Rural Development Institute, Selkirk College,
Ann Bunka, Mayor, Village of New Denver,