The Lakes Region has a rich heritage: it has communities, large and small, that have contributed to New Hampshire's growth and status as one of the best places to live in the United States. Its lakes, rivers, mountains, and forests form a landscape that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Its independent communities also understand the importance of shared responsibility and interdependence.
Before us lies the future. Will the Lakes Region build on its heritage, enhancing the lives of Lakes Region residents and make our communities strong, attractive, vibrant places to live, work, and play? We know tomorrow will be dramatically different than today. If it is to be better, coordinated local and regional planning will help to assure it is. As the planning adage goes, if we fail to plan, we plan to fail.
It has been a privilege to serve the Lakes Region for nearly 30 years and I have witnessed numerous changes: physical, economic, cultural, and political. From the tourism renaissance in Meredith to the sprawling regional shopping complex at Tilton Junction, significant alteration of the landscape has occurred. Broad state and regional plans may help portray the kind of society we want; though, specific, local community plans often make their contribution in ways that are more meaningful to its residents. While another comprehensive watershed management plan for our largest lake waits to occur, several smaller watershed plans have emerged as communities and watershed associations have taken the lead to ensure that local water supplies are adequate for drinking and recreation. What was once a one-day four-town household hazardous waste collection has morphed into a twice a year twenty-four community summer tradition to clean up the environment, and the creation of a permanent household hazardous product facility in Wolfeboro. Where funding for regional transportation planning was nearly non-existent, the LRPC now has an essential role in the statewide process to improve our roads and promote multi-modes of travel. We just completed the region's second comprehensive economic development strategy. Countless other local and regional plans have stirred the imagination, and led to numerous incremental steps in our communities that reflect our heritage as well as our attitude and political will about the type of place we want to enjoy in the future.
Former president Dwight Eisenhower once said that the plan is nothing, planning is everything. There is truth to that. For example, if you think that the sidewalks in Gilford village, advocated by school-aged children, or the cleanliness of our lakes and rivers, or the preservation of village squares in places like Hebron or Sandwich, or the connecting trails between Laconia to Danbury, or the downtown revitalization in process in Bristol all occur by chance, please guess again. Planning is at its most elegant when positive changes seem naturally occurring, often through the steadfast work and community involvement with local planning boards and the LRPC.
Town and regional planning have proven to be valuable community and regional processes year after year. In today's highly competitive, nano-second world, it is easy to become distracted. We need to stay focused on where our future lies. We, the people, receive the government and the rules from those we elect and appoint. My observation is that good government and planning result from visionary leadership and persistent, selfless service over many years; with many people sharing common goals and a willingness to make things happen. As my tenure as executive director draws to a close, I encourage you to remain engaged for the well-being of your community. If you are so inclined, take the next step and help your friends and neighbors living in the next town over or across the lake; there is where regionalism lives and where your stewardship is prized. We have much to be grateful for, and more importantly, much more to do. Best wishes meeting tomorrow's challenges ... Go Lakes Region!
(Kimon Koulet is the retiring executive director of the Lakes Region Planning Commission.)