LivCom Awards 2010 - Day one highlights

Category A


What the judges said:

"There were some good examples of best practice demonstrated here today" - Steve Palframan (UK)

"What emerged was a number of very good initiatives to tackle a range of problems from some very different communities - there are lessons for everyone" - Claudette Savaria, head judge (CAN)

Chautauqua Institution, New York, USA: Popn 7,000

This is the first time a dedicated community institution has reached the LivCom finals. Chautauqua Institution is inhabited all year round, but grows from a hamlet-sized village in the winter months to a community of 7,000 people in the summer offering a programme of events and activity covering education, culture, sport and spiritual development.

Among the achievements highlighted at LivCom, the Chautauqua panel said the inclusion of environmental elements in construction and renovation projects was now a “standard operating procedure”. Recent innovations have included solar panels on the community’s music hall and a rain garden. Along with efforts to protect Chautauqua lake from run off and pollutants, the institution is also trying to cut down on its energy usage. Cars are banned from the community during the summer months with Chautauqua residents on the 750-acre “campus” encouraged to walk, cycle or take the free public transport provided – either recently upgraded electric trams or bio-diesel powered buses.

Emly, Republic of Ireland: Popn 900

Despite a 700-year history, delegates from Emly in South Tipperary, were keen to stress their community’s forward-thinking approach describing it as “overflowing their community spirit and pride in place”.

The yew tree was historically a feature of the local landscape – Emly, translates into Irish as “the edge of the lake of the yew tree” – but the original trees had been felled. These were re-planted as part of initiatives to enhance the natural landscape, along with the creation of a sensory garden, a wildlife area and green spaces on local housing estates.

Demonstrating a strong commitment to environmental best practice, the community has embarked on a Green Home Programme with Irish NGO An Taisce. The programme is an extension of Emly’s Green Schools programme in which the local primary school achieved a green flag last year. There steps include collection of batteries, ink cartridges, mobile phones and aluminium cans for recycling. The school also creates its own compost and has a garden for vegetables and flowers. The green home project will see steps to reduce energy usage and the community’s carbon footprint while improving water conservation and waste management.

Already an award-winner and hoping  to catch the judges’ attention here, Emly won the accolade of “Ireland’s Tidiest Town 2009”.

Kuressaare, Estonia: pop 14,926

The capital of Saaremaa, Estonia’s largest island, Kuressaare was the first town in the country to join the Healthy Cities Movement in a bid to strive for a better and healthier living environment. The LivCom judging panel heard how strong emphasis is being placed in developing Kuressaare’s recreational and cultural amenities to revive the seaside capital’s former status as a well-known resort prior to World War II.

As well as being a popular venue for festivals, concerts and the arts, Kuressaare is developing its sporting credentials and is leading the way in providing “active leisure” for its residents and visitors. Over the past three years, 22km of cycling routes have been built and more are planned. As well as cycling, the routes are used for jogging, Nordic walking and roller-skating but along with promoting a healthier lifestyle, the tracks are seen as a crucial means of reducing car traffic in the town. In 2009, Kuressaare was named the most cycling-friendly mid-sized town in Estonia.

Pushchino, Russia: popn 20,000

Based in the Moscow region, the new town of Pushchino was originally developed for young biochemistry researchers to settle and work at the Russian Academy of Science. Financed through federal budgets during the Soviet Union era, this funding was cut after government changes in the early 1990s. Residents began to look elsewhere for income and economic decline pushed preservation of the local environment off the municipal government’s agenda.

The LivCom judges heard how by the mid 2000s, local people had decided to take matters into their own hands. In 2005-6 a new municipal improvement project was launched. The project aimed to involve schools in regenerating the city by empowering children and their teachers. Gradually local business sponsors emerged and initiatives that started as vegetable planting schemes in neglected areas, painting municipal facilities, creating playgrounds on brown-field sites, have extended to a wave of “public city gardening” in which residents look after flowerbeds and plant vegetables on public spaces.

A new Ecopark has been created and this is used as an educational tool to build awareness of sustainable development. As with the city gardening initiatives, the  Ecopark aims to provide residents with a means of interaction with urban animals and flora. Developed and managed by the local community, for many, the park is seen as one of the symbols of Puschino’s civic achievements.

Trim, Ireland, popn 6,870

One of Ireland’s premier heritage towns, Trim developed as a market town but in recent years has undergone  significant change with the development of light industry. As part of the Irish Government’s move to decentralise the civil service, the town was chosen as the new headquarters of the Office of Public Works resulting in Trim becoming the first location outside Dublin to benefit from decentralisation. The development has seen growth in the town as both a business centre and tourist destination.

Among key initiatives highlighted at LivCom, Trim 2025 is a community project aimed at maximising local resources and assisting local institutions, businesses and individuals in reducing their dependence on fossil fuels. The group is aiming to secure carbon neutral status for Trim within 15 years  and has ambitions to forge a future as a new “green” town giving the community the edge in attracting new business, tourists and residents. Plans were outlined to add value to local produce, generate local electricity and promote conservation, heritage, music and the arts.

Haapsalu, Estonia, popn 11,500

The strength of small businesses and lack of major industry in Haapsalu has kept pollution in the West Estonian seaside town to a minimum but LivCom judges heard the entrepreneurial spirit had also helped the community to tackle its environmental challenges.

In 2009, the rain water and sewage systems were reconstructed, the sewage cleaner was rebuilt and the technology for cleaning sewage was improved.

Thanks to this, the quality of sewage cleaning is now significantly better and compliant with accepted standards. As part of the same project, some households were connected to the sewage and water network for the first time giving 90% coverage for the town.

The town’s delegates focussed on its success in the field of waste management with seven environmental stations and plenty of collection points for recyclable waste. A waste processing plant covering the whole county is located just 8km from the town and caters for recyclable, biodegradeable and dangerous waste.

Other aspects of civic life highlighted by the Haapsalu included the town’s award of the UNICEF title of child-friendly city which resulted from efforts to create a family-centred environment. Several playgrounds have been built as well as youth centres offering leisure  activities and hobbies.