Williamsburg has a tradition for having simple official names for things in the community, such as City Park and The Golf Course. One of Williamsburg’s newest groups, which is being tentatively being called The Burg Group, is no exception.
Its goals can probably best be described as trying to find ways to help Williamsburg and the surrounding community grow and improve for the future in order to make the area a better place to live for current and future residents. At the same time it wants to keep the same small town charm and feel that has always existed here.
The Burg Group, which is actually composed of several groups in the community, such as Why Whitley, the Williamsburg Historic Preservation Commission, and the Williamsburg City Council among others, met for the second time in two months Thursday at Williamsburg City Hall.
The Burg Group is getting assistance from the Community for Economic Development Initiative Kentucky (CEDIK) in order to try and create vision statements it can use to try and reach these goals.
CEDIK works statewide to catalyze positive change to build engaged communities and vibrant economies by providing customized outreach services and information to community stakeholders across the Commonwealth. It helps community leaders needing in-depth data and analysis to make an important community decision, or who are looking to engage their community in a long-term project.
Melody Nall, an engagement director for CEDIK, facilitated Thursday’s meeting having those in attendance form into small working groups that formed lists of their three biggest goals or projects their groups were working on.
Nall then asked those in attendance to write down answers for the following questions:
- What do you value most about this community/place and would like to see preserved for future generations? What are the strengths of the community that you like to boast about to others?
- Imagine it is 10 years from now. What would you be proud to say has changed that would make this community a better place to live, work and visit?
- If this is the kind of community you want to become, what do you need to start doing now to get there?
The questions elicited a number of different responses.
Among the things people valued most that they want to see passed along to future generations were a sense of neighborliness and openness of the people, the family feel of the community, the way the community comes together for each other during a crisis and the town’s rich history and growth among others.
There were several strengths of the community that were identified ranging from its relationship with the University of the Cumberlands to its location on I-75, and the wide range of diversity in the community and the natural resources of the area, such as Cumberland Falls and the Daniel Boone National Forest.
Maria Harrison, a member of the historic preservation commission, noted she is proud of the town’s culture and history, such as the fact that Williamsburg school was the first in the state of Kentucky to voluntarily desegregate.
City Councilman Loren Connell, who is also an administrator at the Williamsburg Independent School District, said he would like to be able to say 10 years from now that Williamsburg has been able to keep its best and brightness minds here.
Mayor Roddy Harrison agreed that the community needs to get not only higher paying skills jobs in the future, but also it needs to attract higher paying jobs so young people can have a career here.
Angie Lewis-Bowling, who is with Why Whitley, said that 10 years from now she would like to see the area regionally and nationally recognized as a great place to live.
Anita Bowman, who is also with Why Whitley, said she would like to see Williamsburg become a retirement community.
Dr. Jim Moss, who is with the historic preservation commission, emphasized the importance of ending the “town-gown” divide between Williamsburg and the University of the Cumberlands.
“We need to make them feel like they are part of the community,” Moss noted.
Dal Macon, who is with the group seeking to restore the Lane Theater, noted that the town needs to give people a reason to live here besides just jobs and salaries. It needs an interesting downtown with various types of activities that will stimulate people, such as arts exhibits, lectures and concerts.
In terms of what the community needs to start doing now to make some of these things happen, Bowman suggested cultivating the area’s youth and getting their input.
Connell suggested community support to help school districts develop career pathways for students that are relevant to our area.
Nall said that CEDIK would examine all the answers given and try to use this, as the basis for creating the vision statements that The Burg Group could use in determining how it wants to improve things for the future.
Nall hopes to present this information at The Burg Group’s next meeting, which is set for March 14 at 5 p.m.