NEW YORK, NY (Aug. 17, 2022)—The Open Space Institute (OSI) and Thrive Regional Partnership today announced the selection of three Tennessee and Georgia cities and one community entity that will participate in the pilot round of its new “Resilient Communities” program, a groundbreaking initiative to help communities plan for and address environmental challenges including the increasing effects of climate change.
Under the pilot program, residents of southern Chattanooga, as well as the communities of Dalton, Georgia; Spring City, Tennessee; and South Pittsburg, Tennessee, will work with Thrive and OSI to understand and address local environmental challenges. Together, OSI and Thrive aim to equip the communities with natural solutions that can be used to protect against fast-moving floodwaters, reduce urban heat island effects, and control erosion to prevent landslides.
“Extreme weather is particularly difficult to address because it is beyond our control,” said Bridgett Massengill, President/CEO of Thrive Regional Partnership. “Thrive looks forward to working alongside residents in our region to understand how we, as humans, citizens, and neighbors, can work with nature to build solutions that fit our communities now and into the future.”
“The Open Space Institute is proud of its role in helping communities anticipate the effects of climate change, one of the most pressing issues of our time,” said Joel Houser, OSI’s Chattanooga-based Southeast Field Coordinator. “Like other communities across the country, residents of the Thrive region are experiencing heightened impacts from climate change, and natural solutions have a critical role to play in addressing this ongoing crisis.”
As floods, hurricanes, and other severe weather increase under a changing climate, these events can disproportionately affect under-resourced neighborhoods which are more vulnerable and find it more difficult and costly to recover, especially as inflation and the price of construction materials continues to increase.
Communities facing these challenges understand the need for “resilience”— meaning, the ability to bounce back from disruptions— to empower municipalities and the neighborhoods, schools, and businesses within them as they anticipate the impacts of climate change.
Under the pilot program, communities participating in the Resilient Communities initiative will develop a pathway toward a custom resilience plan. Along the way, they will be supported by experts in civic engagement and the natural environment. Structured in a cohort model, the program will encourage communities to learn from each other, as well as share knowledge and resources.
To enhance the multidisciplinary approach of the Resilient Communities program, Thrive has partnered with Artists At Work (AAW), a workforce resilience program that builds healthy communities through artistic civic engagement. Local artist and professional dancer Monica Ellison has participated in the planning of the pilot and will support community engagement through the unifying power of movement and breath.
The Resilient Communities program builds upon Thrive’s Cradle of Southern Appalachia collaborative landscape conservation initiative, by connecting people in the tri-state region to its natural treasures, as well as the value they provide to local communities. The Cradle of Southern Appalachia conservation effort is also a focal point of OSI’s $18 million Appalachian Landscape Protection Fund, which harnesses the role of forests in addressing climate change and adds to OSI’s rich legacy of land protection in Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee.