Monday, September 14, 2009

Grey to Green Festival: A Success!

The turnout Saturday afternoon at the Grey to Green Festival at Wick Park is just added proof of just how much of a city's revitalization starts with community activism and involvement.

There was great food, performances, art, crafts, music, and information. But apart from all this, there was an underlying energy present. This energy manifested itself in the positive response the audience gave when listening to Will Allen, an urban farmer who was awarded with the MacArthur Fellowship for bringing sustainable food practices to urban areas. The energy was also evident in the inquisitive nature of the attendees.

Far from just accepting brochures and moving on to the next booth, some people who stopped by the City of Youngstown table stayed to talk and to ask questions. Many were interested in the deconstruction process. Some wanted to know about marketing the salvaged materials, others questioned how much job creation the deconstruction would result in. Some inquired about the Youngstown 2010 Plan.

Above all, these questions exemplify the interest that people have in the city's sustainable practices, in its redevelopment process. And the best part about it was that people of all ages were doing the questioning.

The diversity was largely apparent in the attendance of the festival itself. Young kids, older senior citizens, families, college students -- all of these people found a reason to come to Wick Park on a Saturday. Maybe most had been to Wick Park before. But maybe this was some people's first time there. And maybe this means they'll be coming back to the park, back downtown. And that means a couple more people become part of Youngstown's ever-growing community of proactive individuals. Namely, they wake up and notice that the city has changed for the better while they were sleeping.

Who Are We!

Youngstown has seen a lot of positive changes occur over the past several years. Even prior to the Youngstown 2010 plan many of those changes were underway. The Youngstown Business Incubator (YBI), economic development in the business parks such as Salt Springs and Performance Place, and the downtown convocation center were all underway pre-Youngstown 2010.

The Youngstown 2010 plan, however, has been the thing that has brought the most attention to us. National and international professional planners, journalists and scholars have been looking to and visiting Youngstown to see how the Youngstown 2010 plan is being implemented. No matter how we see ourselves locally, the outside world sees us and the Youngstown 2010 plan as “The Model of Sustainability.”

Yes, in quotations and bold.

The successes of the YBI, the business parks, downtown, Millcreek Park, or the latest wave, being named a top ten place for entrepreneurs, are all important by themselves. Still, they do not fully represent who we are or how we are seen.

Diversifying our economy with high tech, light manufacturing and distribution and entrepreneurs makes us more sustainable. Having a world class urban park system makes us more sustainable. Being the home of Youngstown State University makes us more sustainable. Being a model of sustainability gives us identity.

Three simple words; say it with me: model of sustainability.

Now share it with everyone you know.