Rifle takes part in statewide program | PostIndependent.com

Rifle takes part in statewide program

Heidi Rice
Rifle Correspondent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

RIFLE, Colorado – The city of Rifle was one of four communities in the state of Colorado to recently be selected to participate in a statewide pilot program, the “Sustainable Main Street Initiative,” which was officially announced by Gov. Bill Ritter on Wednesday.

The program seeks to identify needs and seek solutions to strengthen Colorado communities in partnership with state and federal agencies such as the Department of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) – tailored to fit Colorado.

Rifle was chosen along with the Five Points Neighborhood in East Denver, the town of Fowler and the city of Monte Vista. Criteria for being selected for the pilot program included having completed or undertaken sustainability planning for their communities.

“These communities all have engaged the state on downtown revitalization efforts and have completed or undertaken sustainability planning for their communities,” according to the Sustainable Main Street Initiative.

Some of the suggested improvements communities can make include increasing the community’s access to Colorado-grown food projects; improving the energy efficiency of the community and use of renewables in the downtown area; reducing the number of vacant storefronts in the downtown area; increasing the preservation of historic structures in the community; improving the pedestrian friendliness of our Main Street and increasing transportation choices; and increasing the volunteer opportunities in the community that assists job seekers to expand their experience and become a more competitive job applicant.

“Basically, the state comes in and provides assistance to a community in implementing its goals and actions,” said Mike Braaten, government affairs coordinator for the city of Rifle. “Our focus will be on the Rifle core downtown area and things such as a walkabout, water conservation and efficiency, energy improvement and economic development. We want to improve the downtown area and increase the pedestrian and consumer traffic and get new store fronts and businesses.”

Initially, the state would provide technical assistance to get going, Braaten said. Being part of the pilot program also puts the city in a good position when the state budget improves to receive funding for its projects.

“There’s no big decision about what we want to do, there are things we’re already doing, and we’ll get some help in what we’re doing right now,” Braaten said.

The Sustainable Main Street Initiative is being headed up by DOLA and is modeled after a program that has been in place in Oregon for the past 15 years.

According to the state, the seven principles of sustainability include:

• Increase economic competitiveness

• Promote equitable, affordable housing

• Support existing communities

• Provide more transportation choices

• Conserve, responsibly utilize and protect valuable natural resources

• Value healthy communities and neighborhoods

• Enhance integrated planning and investment

“Communities may identify any additional sustainable outcomes not on the list,” the initiative reads. “The community will prioritize the outcomes they want to achieve and work with the state agency resource team to determine how state and additional resources can be utilized to solve problems.”

The pilot communities will form a team of local leaders and the team will meet to determine the outcomes the community would like to achieve for their downtown, along with selecting a local champion who will serve as the local lead for the initiative. The local champion is a person in the community who has the trust and respect of a broad group of citizens and who will bring groups together and build support for the effort. The local lead will work with the state agency resource team to develop solutions to locally identified problems.

City of Rifle officials have already participated in initial meetings and met with Gov. Ritter on Wednesday to discuss the program.

“This is really quite an honor,” Braaten said. “It’s going to lead to some good stuff for Rifle.”

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