I got another "Can small towns be saved? Should we save them?" message this week. This time, it was from a high school classmate of mine. I gave him the same reasons I'm giving you. Time for the third installment of this series.
Reason we need small towns #3: Conservation and recreation.
The natural environment is important to humans. We set aside areas to protect and preserve. These range from tiny city greenspaces to huge national parks worldwide.
Modern preservation takes people. All protected wild areas require people to build, maintain and protect them. But we don't just build fences and never let people go in there again. In most cases, we designate some appropriate uses. It might be recreation or even resource production. So we'll need people to be guides and helpers, and we'll need rule enforcers like Rangers.
Where do all those people live? Not the big city!
Then travelers headed to the parks will need gas, food, and lodging. All kinds of amenities make it possible to enjoy that natural area fully and responsibly. Hmmm.... those businesses can't be in big cities either. They're going to have to be in small towns.
I haven't even started on the role of agriculture and farmers in conservation.
Bottom line: unless urbanization calls for eliminating all conservation of nature, we'll still need small towns.
All of us in small towns have some role in protecting our natural environment. Most small towns are probably near some conservation area, whether national, state, or regional. Whether you have a big tourism base for that natural area is more of a geographic luck-of-the-draw. Some towns have it, some don't. If you do, it's another positive factor for your future. Probably most small towns could do more to generate more responsible tourism.
For towns working on tourism, if you'll pardon a moment of cross-promotion, you might be interested in my Tourism Currents email newsletter. It's focused on telling the story of your place online, and it's written by me, Sheila Scarborough and Leslie McLellan. OK, it's mostly Sheila and Leslie, but they are exactly who you want to learn from: super smart about tourism and with more than a dose of small town heart. Take a look here.