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Resilience in Rural Communities

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Resilience in Rural Communities

Home » Community Action » Resilience Plans » Resilience in Rural Communities

Resilience in Rural CommunitiesIn response to natural, climate-related, and man-made challenges, employing community resiliency planning is crucial to enriching riskawareness and preparedness of residents and local government entities. For the purposes of this case study, researchers evaluated the status of resiliency in the town of Wytheville, Virginia, along with their overall capacity and resources needed to enhance their readiness for environmental, social, and economic threats. This was possible through an examination of the following resources: Wytheville’s Comprehensive Plan from 2013 and draft revisions from 2020, the Mt. Rogers Hazard Mitigation Plan from 2018 (which includes Wythe County), and interviews with the town’s current Assistant Town Manager, Elaine Holeton, and the Planning Director, John Woods. Researchers have compared the town’s plans with those of other Virginia jurisdictions and spoken with city planners to gain insight into the community’s strengths, weaknesses, and needs.

According to key stakeholders, Wytheville is largely unprepared for the threats posed by climate, social, and economic challenges and could greatly benefit from the addition of resiliency strategies in their community planning and policies. These findings are supported by the assessments of the 2013 Comprehensive Plan and the 2020 revisions, as both lack concrete resiliency language in addressing stormwater management, construction safety issues, and potential landslides.

Despite the seven-year discrepancy between these versions, there has been no significant progress in regards to how the community plans to respond to these issues, and there has been a lack of impactful sustainability efforts since the release of the 2013 Plan. The Mt. Rogers Hazard Mitigation Plan similarly lacks actionable language and detailed strategies for localities like Wytheville. There is a need to revise and mobilize a more thorough version of the Comprehensive Plan in the future, although it has been reported that a new version is currently being drafted and should be complete by 2024. This version should consider emerging environmental trends accompanied with action plans, particularly in the SMART goal framework for increased feasibility with the help of an internal resiliency training for community planners.

Stakeholders have also identified the need for improved resources regarding disaster preparation, emergency response systems, energy efficiency, sustainability efforts, and flood mitigation in high risk areas. The Assistant Town Manager and the Planning Director also shared that local government has yet to address the impacts of these environmental issues on their constituents and businesses, considering that resiliency is not commonly talked about in their spaces.

Moving forward with their goal of achieving resilience, Wytheville should garner and utilize more community input on how to strengthen their current resources and incite conversations about environmental issues to promote collective awareness and action from citizens.

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