A special piece prepared by Rebecca Denlinger

With the development of both the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail and the Susquehanna Riverland Conservation Landscape Initiative, Marietta Borough is uniquely positioned to leverage the benefits of the growing cultural, heritage, and eco-tourism in the region. Marietta Borough proposes to utilize an asset based planning process to complete the proposed Marietta Placemaking Readiness Initiative. This effort endeavors both to cultivate viable working relationships among local government and business leaders, residents, community based organizations, and regional agencies and to enact a plan that benefits the community and economic development future of Marietta Borough. The planning process and outcomes will include: (a) considerable outreach to and communication with community stakeholders; (b) capacity building to enable various groups and individuals to coalesce around a common plan of action; (c) asset and resource inventory and assessment; (d) data collection via primary research/surveys on recreational users: experience and expenditures; and, (e) development of an implementation-based plan with realistic strategies and tactics. At the end of this project, Marietta residents and businesses will be ready to collaborate on plan implementation as they prepare for and welcome cultural, heritage, and outdoor recreation visitors.

With its historic properties and location along the Susquehanna River, Marietta understands the exceptional opportunities it has to leverage their natural, cultural and recreational resources to realize positive community and economic development benefits. The Borough also understands that a sustainable effort will require a thoughtful plan to guide the investment of limited resources. To that end, Marietta Borough will use an asset based planning process to identify and mobilize existing as well as unrecognized resources and to build on what they already have (i.e., their physical, human, social, financial, environmental, political, and cultural assets). Some examples of the types of assets this process will identify for further development include:

  • The inventory and assessment of natural resources, infrastructure improvements, and community connections that can promote economic development through increased heritage and eco-tourism;
  • The understanding of local/regional markets as well as consumer spending practices to identify the potential for business retention (growth) and recruitment (new businesses);
  • The mapping of available capacities and resources of local groups and individuals for effectively implementing community strategies.

The key is to start by using what already exists in the community (and region). All individuals and organizations (whether formal institutions or informally gathered) have the capacity to contribute to the community. Armed with the knowledge of its assets, Marietta will develop strategies and tactics to both improve overall quality of life for the community and sustain the powerful sense of place that Marietta holds within the Susquehanna Riverlands.

Marietta Borough acknowledges the importance of both the process and the outcomes of the proposed Marietta Placemaking Readiness Initiative. The community will approach this project with a focus on the following:

Communication: Good communication is critical to building trust and reaching out to involve all in the community. Through this process, the community will implement a formal communication plan to inform and engage all. The plan will then serve as a communication framework as implementation begins.

Collaboration: Collaboration must both take hold among borough organizations and businesses and take root with the county, regional and statewide entities that can participate actively in community and economic development.

Implementation: The Borough will develop a strategic work plan that identifies the resources and leadership needed for implementation. Implementation will require active participation by all community stakeholders.

Sustainability: The intent of the project is to cultivate relationships, practices, and procedures that become a lasting part of the community. Marietta recognizes that accounting for the sustainability of this initiative with respect to projects, programming, and financing, will increase its impact over the long term.

Marietta is a classic industrial river town with well-maintained historic residential and commercial structures lining its streets. Over half of the Borough is listed on the National Register due to its largely uninterrupted 19th century architectural fabric. Its restaurants and taverns along the Susquehanna River draw patrons from all over the region. Marietta’s housing has appealed to professionals seeking a small-town lifestyle within easy reach of larger cities. The Borough’s natural assets provide recreational opportunities, important conservation benefits, and tourism that can help spur revitalization in Marietta Borough. At the end of this project, the identification of community assets, cultivation of resources, and development of an implementation-based plan will set the stage for Marietta residents, businesses, and organizations to collaborate on protecting and promoting the Borough’s natural, cultural, and historic treasures while sustaining its unique sense of place in the region.

Marietta Borough spent considerable time thinking through and scoping the proposed Marietta Placemaking Readiness Initiative. They identified a number of elements within the planning process where the community intends to leverage local and regional partners to provide in kind services and other resources. These elements are clearly outlined in the budget presented in Section A. above. They are also listed here with some additional information:

  • County of Lancaster: This project will engage at least two critical partners from the County of Lancaster: The Lancaster County Planning Commission and the Lancaster County GIS Department. The Planning Commission provides a community planner as a direct technical resource to each municipality. Through this planner, the Borough has the ability to secure current market data. Specifically, for this project, Marietta will request demographic data as well as retail market demand and opportunity gap reports from Nielsen Claritas 2015 Update. Through the GIS Department, Marietta Borough will request up to 10 hours of GIS mapping assistance.
  • Economic Development Company of Lancaster County: Marietta will engage the resources of the EDC and their new Lancaster County Boroughs Collaborative initiative. They will be asked to supplement the data provided by the County Planning Commission with any market-specific information relevant to the tourism sector. They will also be invited to help facilitate at least one work session of the planning committee for the purposes of advancing the analysis of the data collected.
  • Elizabethtown College: Marietta is excited about the opportunity to partner with the professors and students from Elizabethtown College on this initiative. They will be seeking assistance primarily from the Business Department through their Service Learning Community Partner Program. The Borough can engage the students in a variety of ways, including: research, survey development and implementation, and simple data analysis. In addition to the Business Department, there is a potential for collaboration with students in the Computer Engineering/Science program to further the GIS based work of the project.
  • Marketing Consultant (Local Expert): The Borough will engage the talents and resources of a local marketing expert. This individual will assist in market intelligence tasks including survey development and other research activities. They will also be called upon to help with community engagement by developing strategies and marketing collateral to aid in overall project communication.

In addition to those named above, given the asset based process that the Borough is proposing, this initiative will engage a wide variety of groups and individuals both during the planning process and in the implementation of the plan.  Please see the Marietta Placemaking Readiness Initiative Stakeholder document for an initial list of potential partners.

The Marietta Placemaking Readiness Initiative seeks to both fulfill the goals of the Susquehanna Riverlands Conservation Landscape Initiative and achieve numerous objectives of existing county and regional plans:

Through the completion of this project, Marietta will work to improve public access to the river. First they will work to develop an understanding of the current/future users of the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail. With that understanding, they will be able to plan and implement policies, projects, and programming to ensure that both residents and visitors can access the trail, the river, and the lands and resources within the Susquehanna Riverlands.

With the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail being developed as a linear park along the Susquehanna River, Marietta is positioned to provide recreational opportunities, important conservation benefits, and tourism that can help spur revitalization in Marietta Borough. With the completion of the proposed project, the community will be prepared to work collaboratively to provide enhanced land and water based recreational opportunities both to residents of the community and visitors to the region.

The Susquehanna Riverlands Conservation Landscape Initiative seeks to revitalize the Rivertown communities of Marietta, Columbia and Wrightsville. By engaging business leaders, Marietta will work to offer retail shops and restaurants access to both increased traffic from cultural, heritage, and eco-tourism and additional support from local and regional markets. The efforts will also strive to increase the community’s attractiveness to young families, career professionals and empty nesters. Residents, property owners, merchants, community organizations, and local government will all benefit from increased community and economic development as a result of plan implementation.

For the community to consider the proposed Marietta Placemaking Readiness Initiative to be successful, they will be able to:

  1. Confirm they have engaged the community through a meaningful planning process
  2. Show a thorough understanding of Marietta Borough’s assets and resources
  3. Provide a plan of actionable community and economic development initiatives… the planned projects and programs needed to maximize the potential of Marietta as a wonderful place to live, do business, and visit.
  4. Show an understanding of the impacts of the community and economic development on borough infrastructure and organizational capacity.
  5. Execute the Borough’s adoption of the plan and confirm commitment for implementation by the Borough as well as a variety of community groups and individuals.
  6. Show how they will continue to identify and cultivate new leaders within the community to lead and/or support the effective implementation of the plan

At the end of the planning process…

  1. Communication with and/or outreach to at least 75% of local businesses and organizations
  2. Comprehensive inventory of existing community assets and resources
  3. Compiled results from surveys of three target segments
  4. Trail users
  5. Business owners
  6. Residents
  7. Preliminary list of economic development strategies and tactics
  8. Adopted plan with commitment from borough and identified community organizations and individuals for implementation
  9. Preliminary list of impacts of development on borough infrastructure and organizational capacity

Long-term measurements:

Within five years of plan adoption…

  1. Five current businesses have expanded
  2. Five new businesses opened
  3. Majority of businesses reporting annual growth–due in part to increased economic development
  4. Marietta Borough has the tools and capacity in place to address ongoing capital improvement needs and impacts of development (e.g. capital improvement plan and budget; management capacity)
  5. Marietta is recognized as a distinctive river town destination