On Wednesday, June 13, our Greater Together Listening Tour 2018 stopped at Auerfarm in Bloomfield. Nearly 70 residents joined Hartford Foundation President Jay Williams for an uplifting community conversation. After a short introduction, the floor opened to give those in attendance the opportunity to share what they love about living in Bloomfield, as well as some of the challenges facing their community.
Here are a few things we learned throughout the course of the evening:
- Bloomfield residents love the openness and rural feel of their town. However, as the town has grown, its current infrastructure has become problematic. Increased traffic has become an issue, and there are very few sidewalks and shoulders on local roads, making walking and biking very dangerous in some areas. Other nearby towns, such as Simsbury and West Hartford, have made strides in managing traffic and making their towns more biker and pedestrian-friendly, with dedicated bike lanes on roads, bike paths and sidewalks. How can Bloomfield learn from these towns and integrate these techniques to make the community friendlier to alternative forms of transportation? How can Bloomfield strike a balance between preserving the “small town” feel while continuing to experience economic growth and the increased activity that comes along with it?
- A resident asked Jay about our strategic plan. Currently, we are in the final year of our three-year strategic plan, and are in the midst of planning our next strategic plan. These conversations are helping to inform its development. As we begin to think about the future, we are using data and learning to focus more deeply and intentionally on key priority areas. We are looking at how we can continue to support current broad areas, such as education, arts and culture, and basic human needs, perhaps expanding where necessary. At the same time, we will deepen our work in places where current data tells us the greatest needs exist.
- Lack of affordable housing in Bloomfield is a big concern for residents. New housing developments are being built in Bloomfield; however, they come with a large price tag. This is making it difficult for Bloomfield to attract diverse residents: by race and ethnicity, income level, and points in life (i.e. young families just starting out). How can the town work to address this issue?
- There are young adults in Bloomfield that need job skills, including those with disabilities or those who have not chosen traditional educational paths. How can these young people get access to the skills they need? Is there an opportunity for the business community, such as Bloomfield-based CIGNA, to help create new pipelines for jobs?
- Bloomfield residents are concerned about their public schools. Bloomfield struggles with the same issues as other towns visited on our tour – there are a lack of afterschool academic enrichment programs, and there are not enough resources available for public schools to provide these services. How can the Foundation and other nonprofits help fill this void?
- The environment and climate change are a concern for residents. Bloomfield’s tributaries are impaired – they are not swimmable, fishable or drinkable. Children in Bloomfield need more access to a cleaner, more flourishing environment in order for them to grow to appreciate natural resources. How can residents and nonprofits in the area work together to elevate the importance of the environment and educate a new generation to appreciate it as well?
- Volunteerism in Bloomfield is declining, which is another common theme that has come up at other stops on our Listening Tour. How can we help inspire a new generation to give of their time and talents to serve their community? Other towns are experiencing the same issue — what might we learn from others?
- There was a discussion about regionalism. This topic has come up at almost all of our Listening Tour stops. Towns are all competing for limited resources to maintain duplicative municipal services, such as individual local fire and police departments. How can the Foundation help create new strategies and encourage regional cooperation?
Thank you to everyone who attended our seventh Listening Tour event! If there are any additional ideas you would like share, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to hear from you! Our next stop is the Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington on June 19. Visit greatertogether2018.org for more information on how to register!