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Wimbledon part of USDA pilot livable community program

Wimbledon is one of two North Dakota communities chosen to be part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development’s new Livable Communities program.

Carol Peterson, a board member for the Wimbledon Community Grocery, said a steering committee made up of 11 people from the Wimbledon community will meet with USDA Rural Development officials today to discuss how the community will go through the new Livable Communities program process.

Emily Brown, a community planning and development specialist with USDA Rural Development North Dakota, said Washburn is the other community taking part in this pilot project.

Brown said the staff have worked the last nine months developing the program. She said the program’s goal is to provide support for communities as the communities develop a quality of life strategy.

“We’re going to provide support and guidance for communities to pick a couple of strategies to improve the quality of life for its residents,” she said.

Brown said other communities in North Dakota have shown an interest in pursuing the Livable Communities designation. She said North Dakota developed the program, the first of its kind in the nation, as there is a lot interest among communities in the state in improving quality of life.

“Instead of focusing on creating jobs, it’s creating an atmosphere where people want to live, to attract people and jobs to a community,” she said.

Brown said if Wimbledon and Washburn complete the Livable Communities program, those communities will be recognized for their efforts and being leaders in quality of life development.

Peterson said the Wimbledon Community Grocery and Wimbledon Community Improvement Corp. will be the lead organizations that guide the community through the Livable Communities program process. The first community meeting will be Dec. 13 at St. John’s United Methodist Church in Wimbledon, 100 Center St. The meeting will start at 5 or 5:30 p.m. and wrap up by 7 p.m.

“We’re having a potluck dinner, a working supper, to get community input,” she said. “Food brings more people.”

Peterson said Wimbledon was chosen to be part of the Livable Communities program because of projects like the community banding together to save the grocery store in town. The community formed a nonprofit and negotiated the purchase of the only grocery store in Wimbledon and has been running it as a nonprofit ever since. Peterson said the community also used funds from its weekly summer steak fry fundraisers to build a memorial to the area’s veterans.

Peterson said the board for the Wimbledon Community Grocery Store would like to upgrade the building where the store is located to make its heating and cooling system more energy efficient.

“We (the Wimbledon community) are also looking at bringing in more housing in Wimbledon,” she said, “and trying to better market our community to bring more people to live here.”

Peterson said she is sure there will be more ideas from the first community input meeting on Dec. 13. She said there will be more community meetings throughout the winter.

Peterson said at the end of the meetings, the community’s goals will be prioritized and a report will be created. USDA Rural Development North Dakota officials will review the plan, suggest  changes if needed and ultimately approve the plan.

Peterson said the Wimbledon community wants to have the process completed by March 1, well before spring planting starts.