Welcome to the second round of the fourth annual Strongest Town Competition! We’re down to our top eight contestants, and for this round, we asked them to cut back on the text and instead send us five photos, with a caption for each explaining how it illustrates the strength of their city.
Check out the photo submissions from two of our elite eight contenders below, and cast your vote at the bottom of the page!
If you’re having trouble deciding, stay tuned—on Wednesday, we’ll publish some brief commentaries from Strong Towns members on each of the contestants. We’ve asked them to reflect on what they’ve seen from our towns so far, and how it aligns with the Strong Towns approach to growth and development.
Voting closes at 12pm CDT on Thursday, March 28th.
Nelson, British Columbia
Entry submitted by: Tammy Everts, Anna Purcell, Rik Logtenberg, Keith Page, John Paolozzi, and Paula Kiss.
A Downtown Renaissance
The early 1980s were disastrous for Nelson. The local sawmill ceased operations, followed by the university, eliminating nearly 1000 jobs in a town of just 10,000 people. But those events also spurred innovation. Baker Street was home to hundreds of historic structures in need of restoration, so the drive to revitalize the downtown took off. By the mid-80s the entire street had a new look. The area is now a bustling centre of activity, no matter the season. Cafes and restaurants spill out onto the sidewalks, shops are busy, and there are ample places to park your bike. This might explain why Nelson has more than three times as many commuters who walk or bike to work than the provincial average.
Local Food for Local Health
One in five people in Nelson live below the low income threshold. High rents make life challenging for a lot of people, and can also lead to compromises in diet. To help, a number of non-profit organizations have stepped up. One such organization is the Nelson Community Food Centre, which runs a series of programs, including a food bank, cooking classes, a community garden, and harvest rescue, which gleans nearly 10,000 pounds of produce from gardens throughout Nelson each year. (Harvest Rescue also helps keep the bears away.)
Coming Together to Help Residents in Need
Like most other cities and towns in North America, Nelson’s population includes people who struggle with mental health, addiction, and homelessness. To create a more coordinated, caring response, Nelson Street Outreach was launched. This multi-disciplinary group consists of members from the social service sector, business community, municipal police, faith community, school district, health authority, local college, and local government. A small street team engages with people to monitor individual situations, direct them to resources, act as mediators with police, and provide emergency food, water, clothes, and care when needed. The project is currently entering its third year of operation.
Nelson Takes Disaster Preparedness Seriously
We were going to fill this space with a shot of our twice-weekly farmer’s market and talk about our awesome local organic food culture, but with summers getting longer, hotter, and drier, the threat of wildfire has become a province-wide concern. After a study identified Nelson as the most at-risk community over 10,000 in western Canada, the city has begun working on a broad range of strategies to mitigate fire threat, create an actionable whole community emergency operations plan, and build capacity to respond, and if necessary, rebuild.
Celebrating Art and Artists
Nelson has long been home to a great arts scene. The most recent addition is the Nelson International Mural Festival, now entering its second year. The first year invited a selection of international, national, and local artists to create 8 murals throughout the downtown. The mural above was created by local artist Kelly Shpeley, painted on the rear wall of Nelson’s hugely popular Capitol Theatre, which was lovingly restored by volunteers in the mid-1980s.
Entry submitted by: Kris Bryant, Justin Fortney, and Kailyn Swonger.
Incremental Development Leads to Treasured Gathering Places
Hoboken Coffee Roasters was once an abandoned garage until Trey and Mallory used their life savings and passion for well-crafted coffee to make their dream a reality, one subway tile at a time. Hoboken represents slow, incremental development on a human scale. And is one of Guthrie’s most treasured places for people to gather.
Take a Historic Tour on Two Wheels
Guthrie’s turn of the century Victorian architecture is so ornate it can only be fully appreciated on foot or bike. Guthrie looks for every opportunity to close streets so pedestrians and cyclists can feel even more at home.
Friendly for Families, Fowl, and Free-Range Kids
The American Dream is alive and well in Guthrie, picket fence included. Families of all ages can find affordable places to live within walking distance or a short bike ride from downtown. Free range kids and chickens are welcome here.
A Traditional Downtown, From the Bricks On Up
Original red brick streets pave the way through Guthrie’s walkable village and National Historic District, the largest in the U.S.. Guthrie’s land use is so efficient you can get almost all of your daily errands, shopping, and entertainment needs met within a four block radius.
The Next Generation
The Boarding House, Oklahoma’s first board game lounge, plays host to some of the coolest kids in America. Families in Guthrie put down deep roots and instill the values of hard work, friendship, and being real.
Voting is now closed.
Voting is weighted so that Strong Towns member votes account for half of each town's score and non-member votes account for the other half.