AARP Mississippi recently conducted an Active Living Workshop in Clarksdale to engage residents in a conversation about making the city more livable. AARP brought in Dan Burden, nationally renowned civic innovator, to facilitate the conversation and assess the city’s walkability during a tour.
About 50 residents, including two city commissioners, participated in the workshop and discussed how to make the city safer. The AARP Community Group, Seniors for a More Livable Community, and other city residents discussed their concerns about crime and city cleanliness.
Burden is Executive Director of the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute in Port Townsend, WA. The Institute’s mission is to create healthy, connected communities that support active living and that advance opportunities for all people through walkable streets, livable cities and better built environments.
He shared ways other communities worked together to clean their cities and reduce crime. The group took a trolley ride through Clarksdale to view “beauty” spots and troublesome spots. Burden said simple actions like fixing broken windows on abandoned buildings could deter criminal activity because the building “looks cared for.” During the walking tour of the historic Myrtle Hall school block, Burden and residents pointed out opportunities to develop the property. Residents discussed the block’s historic significance and reminisced about their times in the community. Burden discussed the potential for sidewalks, a corner store and off-street parking. He told residents they had the potential to develop the area so that “anybody who is going to be bad is not going to be bad here, and hopefully not even in your community at all.”
After the tour, the group returned to the workshop location, Chapel Hill Missionary Baptist Church. Then they reviewed health statistics and the link between a walkable community and physical wellbeing for all ages.
Seniors For A More Livable Community began having conversations earlier this year with the mayor, city commissioners and police chief about making the city safer. The workshop was the first step in developing an action plan that the community group will pursue.