Pilot Program Will Support Sustainable Rural Economy, Character for the Shore
Chestertown, MD, September 17, 2002 — The W. K. Kellogg Foundation has awarded Washington College a grant of $100,000 to develop a Rural Communities Leadership Program for the Eastern Shore of Maryland. To be conducted by the College's Center for the Environment and Society in collaboration with the University of Maryland's Institute for Governmental Service, the pilot program, beginning this fall, will become a model for creating and sustaining local leadership in order to encourage and to maintain the rural character, resource-economy and heritage of the Shore.
Widely recognized as a unique environmental and cultural region, the Eastern Shore has been a major agricultural area since Colonial times (the landscape is currently comprised of 53 percent productive farmland), but its proximity to the growing sprawl of the Washington-Baltimore-Philadelphia corridor has brought related pressures to covert its rural land for development.
“Our region faces the prospect of losing its rural economy and its abundant natural resources due to developmental pressures,” said Dr. Wayne Bell, who is overseeing the project as the Director of the Center for the Environment and Society at Washington College. “The hope is that through the Rural Communities Leadership Program, we can promote the smartest of the smart growth for our region through a network of leaders who represent and are stakeholders of the Eastern Shore's communities.” This network will be grassroots, explained Bell, comprising people from various sectors of the Eastern Shore region—farmers, watermen, community planners, environmentalists, developers and builders, and business people—who understand the region's special sense of place and can coordinate their activities on a regional and local level.
A Community Forum scheduled for November 23, 2002, will launch the pilot program, by identifying and recommending the participants for the initial leadership program council. Beginning in January 2003, participants will meet monthly to deliberate on issues such as economics, community character, the environment and natural resources. In addition, participants will make at least one field trip to see first-hand how other communities have confronted and resolved similar challenges to those facing the Shore. As a pilot study, the participants will assist in evaluating the individual classes and overall program.
“There are two beneficial, long-term results from these leaderships programs,” said Dr. Philip Favero of the Institute for Governmental Service, who will serve at the Program's day-to-day coordinator. “First, individuals' skills and knowledge in the various issues affecting rural communities, from development to the environment, will be increased and enhanced. Secondly, and equally important, are the trusting, cooperative relationships developed between the participants that carry beyond the classes into the communities and their professional positions. This is a longer-term outcome, but one that is absolutely essential so that the knowledge gained will be the basis of region-wide action, policy and planning.”
Washington College students, joined by selected registrants from the Washington College Academy for Lifelong Learning—the college-affiliated adult education program—will participate in the Rural Communities Leadership Program through a special course, “Sustaining Rural Communities,” during the spring 2003 semester. The course and project will be integrated in several ways, but the key will be having the class meet with the program council once a month.
“This project is an example of expanded community engagement of Washington College,” said Bell. “It is a two-way endeavor that creates a professional academic resource for the Eastern Shore and enables students to learn first-hand about outside issues that will challenge them after their graduation.”
The $100,000 grant for this pilot program was W. K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, MI. Established in 1930 by W.K. Kellogg, the cereal industry pioneer, the Foundation has continuously focused on building the capacity of and enabling individuals, communities, and institutions to solve their own problems.