Do you think your work, and Frederick County (and Maryland), would benefit if a diverse range of organizations that care about smart growth and the protection of our environment worked together in a more organized and effective manner?
That was the basic question posed to leaders of organizations working on land use and environmental issues in Frederick County and statewide in Maryland a few months ago.
During a walk in the woods last summer, Kai Hagen and Kim Brandt discussed the establishment of a Frederick County-focused coalition to share information and coordinate advocacy efforts. There are so many challenges and opportunities in Frederick, and not enough hours in the day for any one person or organization to address it all as effectively as they would like. Envision Frederick County and 1000 Friends of Maryland already and often work in partnership with other organizations. Bringing our local and state partners together seemed like a smart, strategic way to make progress on our shared interests.
The coalition’s kick-off meeting was held in September in downtown Frederick. We were excited to have representatives of thirteen organizations brief the group on their work and engage in a lively discussion of the many opportunities for collaboration. In addition to growth and environmental issues, the group discussed the importance of working together to improve citizens’ awareness of and involvement in the development of plans, policies, and projects that impact their quality-of-life.
Even before the coalition was fully defined and firmly established, we had an opportunity to take a policy position and help rally the public to do the same. A bill sponsored by Council Member Jerry Donald sought to strengthen protections for stream buffers in Frederick County, restoring some of the provisions that had been removed by the previous administration. Thirteen organizations signed on to the coalition’s letter of support and hundreds of county residents signed an online petition supporting the bill, which was passed at the first council meeting in December.
This blog entry is a preliminary heads up about this new alliance. We are still working out a number of details — a Mission Statement, for example. Among other things, another blog entry before long will include the Mission Statement, a list of all the participating local and state organizations, and links to a new website and Facebook page. Stay tuned!
The coalition, called the Smarter Growth Alliance for Frederick County, is now meeting on a monthly basis and has a busy agenda for next year. It’s an exciting time to be working in Frederick County!