Welcome to our Elite Eight round of the Strongest Town Competition. We invite you to view the photographs that representatives from these two towns have submitted to showcase their strength and resilience, and judge them based on Strong Towns principles. Please scroll down to the bottom to vote for the strongest!


San Marcos, TX

Entry submitted by Charlotte Wattingly, Collette Jamison, Kristi Wyatt, Kevin Burke, Abigail illfillan, Trey Hatt, Rev. Todd Salmi, Will Parrish, and Tory Carpenter

Photo by Don Anders

Photo by Don Anders

“Kissing Alley” is an alley in our downtown district that is often closed to vehicle traffic so that if can be used for small events. The picture above shows the alley during “Park(ing) Day”, a worldwide event that focuses on transforming underutilized public parking spaces and other vehicular infrastructure into miniature parks. We have seen great success with both “Kissing Alley” and Park(ing) Day, with some of the neighboring business (even the ones that rely on the alley for regular deliveries) calling for a more permanent transformation of the alley into a dedicated pedestrian passage. After three years of celebrating Park(ing) Day, downtown business owners and the City of San Marcos worked together and passed a parklet ordinance which allows business to close on street parking in front of their businesses to construct parklets.    

Photo by Don Anders

Photo by Don Anders

“Art Squared” is one of the regular downtown events that take place on the Courthouse Square, along with weekly farmers markets and the occasional game of Unicycle Football (a uniquely San Marvelous sport). The community regularly gathers at the Courthouse Square for other events as well, such as concerts, food drives, the Western Swing Festival, the National Corndog Day celebration, pie eating contests, and wine walks. 

Photo by Don Anders

Photo by Don Anders

A town is only as strong as the people in it. Projects, plans and polices can shape a town, but the people define it.  San Marcos is a mighty municipality made up of resourceful, devoted and determined residents.  This photo shows Sara Lee Underwood, a San Marcos resident, and her neighbor during a volunteer community cleanup.  Just a few weeks later during the Memorial Weekend Flood of 2015 this same neighborhood was devastated by floodwaters.  But, the community banded together to help one another rebuild and recover.  It’s folks like Sara Lee who inspired the city to create the hashtag #SMTXStrongerTogether.

Photo by Tour San Marcos

Photo by Tour San Marcos

The San Marcos River runs through the heart of our city and is the reason San Marcos is one of the longest continually inhabited sites in North America. The importance of the river to our local culture, and to our City planning, is reflected in the name of our comprehensive master plan, “Vision San Marcos: A River Runs Through Us.”  Lifelong residents, university students and visitors from around the world share the pristine waters of the San Marcos River with endangered species that inhabit no other place on Earth. 

Photo by Don Anders

Photo by Don Anders

Bobcat Build was started 12 years ago as a way to say “Thank You” to the San Marcos community.  It has now turned into a Texas State University tradition and serves as the largest service project on campus.  It is also the second largest, one-day community service project in the state of Texas. The name itself symbolizes the goal of strengthening the bond between Texas State University and the community of San Marcos. Every spring semester, students volunteer their time to complete various service projects throughout the community such as landscaping, painting, or clean-ups at residents’ homes, local schools, parks, churches, and neighborhoods. Over the past 10 years, the event has grown in participation from approximately 700 volunteers at 50 jobsites to nearly 4,000 volunteers at over 250 jobsites within the San Marcos community! Feel free to learn even more about Bobcat Build by checking out our website. 


Sandusky, OH

Entry submitted by Angela Byington, Nikki Lloyd, Marvin Ranaldson, McKenzie Spriggs, Greg Voltz, Ryan Whaley, Chad Whaley and Eric Wobser

City Manager, Eric Wobser, and City Commissioners join Sandusky residents at Mr. Smith’s Coffee House. Communication within the community has been and will continue to play a large part in the foundation for the growth of Sandusky.  Monthly sessions like these are a regular occurrence, promoting and encouraging community members to engage in Sandusky’s flourishing future.  

The winter sun sets on Schade-Mylander Plaza in Sandusky’s Historic Waterfront District.  Established in 1818, Sandusky’s rich history is evident throughout the town's meticulously detailed architecture and tree-lined streets, constantly reminding residents of their strong roots.  Moving forward without forgetting the past.  Progression with historic preservation, this balance is key as Sandusky continues to grow as a strong town.  

With Cedar Point in the background, a surfer emerges from the cold waters of Lake Erie during a November session.  Much like that of a Sandusky resident, surfers here maintain a steely resolve, pushing forward despite having to overcome various obstacles like cold water and freezing temperatures.  Both the Sandusky local and the freshwater surfer share a common belief, progress only comes from staring adversity in the face and beating it back with hard work and progress.  

Fall’s palate of colors on full display at Shoreline Park on Sandusky Bay. With it’s unique location, Sandusky maintains a city managed greenhouse to accommodate more than twenty parks. This not only adds to the aesthetics and charm of this midwestern town, but greatly enhances the community’s opportunity to experience the splendor of Ohio’s outdoors. Striking a balance with nature and the environment around us continues to aid in Sandusky’s strong development.   

Oktoberfest runners on Water Street pass by the ferry docks near the water’s edge during one of the town’s numerous events.  A healthy, active community is a happy and productive community, which is why Sandusky prides itself on hosting events that encourage locals and visitors alike to participate in lively, dynamic experiences. 

All photos courtesy of Green Door Mediaworks.

(Top graphic by Matthias Leyrer)


Voting is now closed.