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Re-energizing area begins with optimism

Home renovations can feel like torture while they are in progress. It’s hard to keep your eye on the prize while your home is all torn up. The same can be true for community renewals.

Not that long ago, residents of Dunkirk were complaining loudly about changes being made to the Dunkirk pier. Now it’s a beacon of beauty. People flock there to fish, socialize or simply to enjoy the natural beauty and all the new amenities. The same is true of recent improvements made at Wright Park and Point Gratiot Park. New or upgraded pavilions, playgrounds and a splash pad have been a big draw, which is not easy during a pandemic. Beautiful features like these attract people. That, in turn, helps local businesses survive and downtowns thrive.

Right now some Fredonia residents are losing patience with the renovations underway in their downtown. Construction is never pretty and, just like when work was underway at the Dunkirk pier, some Fredonia events had to be temporarily relocated, like concerts and the farmer’s market. No one likes it when venues change, even temporarily. It can be hard to visualize the end result while being inconvenienced.

Complicating matters in both communities, some people didn’t like the original design plans for these upgrades, so both communities listened to their constituents and modified their plans. Community planners have spent years studying what people want. Their ultimate goal is always to make people happy. Without a doubt, they know the most successful communities pour attention, resources and creativity into their feature attractions and downtowns.

Residents can also do their part to create positive energy for their community by the way they talk about where they live. Language can be a power tool for community development or it can hinder it.

No one enjoys listening to whiners or fear mongers, especially not when their complaints are baseless. Being negative doesn’t help anyone. Instead, focus on positives and possibilities. For instance, stop using “de” words like depressed, decline, or despair and start using “re” words instead, like redesign, renew, and reenergize. Little changes in the words we use can make the biggest differences.

We should also never lose sight of the fact that Chautauqua County is an extremely safe place to live. According to Crimegrade.org, Chautauqua County is rated A+ for safety, ranking in the 94th percentile. That means only 6% of counties in the USA are safer and 94% of counties are more dangerous. It’s important to focus on facts like this to avoid getting sucked in by folks who enjoy trafficking in unwarranted fear. Take a deep breath. Some inconvenience may be required to make your world a better place, but rest assured, anyone living in, or visiting, Chautauqua County is very safe and secure.

Chautauqua County is also blessed with an abundance of forward thinking officials that actually get things done. In addition to what’s happening in Dunkirk and Fredonia, look at all the improvements and new development in Jamestown in recent years. Many other communities in the county also made large and small changes that make them swell with pride. Take a drive and check them out too.

Soon Fredonia residents will be just as proud and happy with the beautiful improvements in their downtown. A drive by the new Fredonia Opera House marquee today provides a small preview of coming attractions. Take a cue from that and do your best to inspire people.

Patty Hammond is Economic Development Coordinator at the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation. The Local Economic Development (LED) Initiative is a standing committee of the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation (NCCF). Send comments or suggestions to Patty Hammond at phammond@nccfoundation.org

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