Riding through northeast Mississippi and portions of western Tennessee to and from Nashville this weekend was an attention getter, but not from the bright lights and glitter of the country music scene in the Big City–although my first visit to the area was quite a cultural experience. The route we traveled was way off the beaten path and a highly enjoyable one to the senses.
What I will remember most about the region, besides the natural beauty of the foothills of the Appalachians, was that the communities along the route took pride in their appearance. Roadsides and medians were virtually litter-free. Residential areas of the various small towns through which we traveled were very well maintained. Streets were smooth. Yards were manicured. Businesses were neat in appearance and appealing to this visitor’s eye. One could tell right away that the stakeholders of these small communities and–even the more rural areas and the industrial parks along the highway–take much pride in their curb side appeal.
Many areas of our own communities have realized the importance of a good curb side appeal. Not only does it foster pride in a community, it keeps folks coming back to visit–whether staying overnight, or making a pit stop on their way to somewhere else. Simply put, folks are drawn to areas where a high quality of life is obvious and nurtured carefully.
Curb side appeal is not exclusive to the way a place appears to the eye. Elected officials of a community, for example, who work hard with local businesses and civic organizations such as the local Chamber of Commerce to promote a high quality of life–including anti-litter and anti-clutter campaigns–are key ingredients to improving a community’s curb side appeal. Cities that spend money wisely on police and fire protection, street and infrastructure maintenance and who foster goodwill among residents, commerce and industries to develop and maintain a high quality of life and an appealing appearance have a direct impact on capturing tourism dollars, too.
Our communities here in Copiah County could enjoy such benefits, but only if everyone gets involved. On a residential level, not much effort is required to throw garbage in a receptacle instead of tossing it out of a car window. Along the same lines, sturdy trash cans with locking lids can be purchased without much expense that will keep animals out of the garbage on Trash Days in our towns and throughout the county. Simple things like these make a huge impact.
In more official capacity, our elected officials, most of whom care greatly about a positive image and a good curb side appeal and prove it with their efforts, their decisions and their actions, can play a key role in improvements. Sometimes, for example, just the mere presence of our elected officials at a gathering of business leaders who are working to improve our communities says ‘Hey, we are here, and we support you’, and goes along way toward accomplishing the goals of a better quality of life.
One day I will return to Nashville and enjoy all that the Country Music Capital of the World has to offer. Most likely, I will get there by traveling the same winding and eye-appealing route that I took this past weekend. In the same light, we have so much to offer, here, in terms of tourism and cultural opportunities. Everyday folks decide to get off the beaten path of I-55 and take the routes through our communities to experience the story of Robert Johnson, visit Civil War-era homes and cemeteries or to locate artifacts from the golden age of the railroad and the vegetable packing and shipping sheds in our Depot, for example. We need to make sure they want to come back.
But, it takes cooperation and action at every level of our communities to improve those chances.
Joe Buck Coates