By Amanda Lanata
Do you have a summer vacation coming up?
Here’s how I find great spots!
I look for cities with historic character and walkable neighborhoods. Local restaurants and outdoor recreation are a must. I often stop to explore downtown, pausing to read the historical markers. On the way to our annual family beach trip, it’s required that we stop in picturesque Ocean Springs, Mississippi, to stroll down tree-lined Washington Avenue and get a bite to eat.
What do you seek in a vacation spot?
Data from Louisiana Travel shows that our visitors want culinary/dining experiences, shopping, and historic sites. Whether it’s Disney World, Europe, or Ocean Springs—on vacation, we tend to walk more, enjoy nature, shop at local businesses, and mingle. We have a higher expectation because that place is a destination for us. Why do we only expect more on vacation? Why can’t we have this experience in our towns?
Let’s open up our eyes to Zachary. Could we apply some of those same ideas here in our own city? We vacation for a week or two, but we’re home the rest of the time. City planning and design affect us every day.
This summer, pay attention to the places you visit. What do you like about them (or not)? Are the streets comfortable for walking? What kinds of businesses are there? Is it a destination or somewhere to pass through?
When we get home, let’s roll up our sleeves, and make our community better. Let’s build on the good things that are already here. In Zachary, many folks—expert consultants and residents alike—recognize that our strategy should be family-friendly. To me, that looks like more sidewalks (and bike paths!) to connect neighborhoods, parks, and schools. It means more businesses that serve kids and families. What does family-friendly mean to you?
A good strategy looks at everything: the built environment, business mix, events and promotions, and community partnerships. We need strong civic engagement, too. We should all have a voice in designing our city. My husband Nick says, “We’re the subject matter experts because we live here.” We’re forming a Local Conversations group to engage our neighbors on these questions. We have ideas, but we don’t have all the answers—join us!
This summer, find a Main Street community for your pitstop. Across America, these towns are implementing a proven model of economic development that “celebrates community character and generates impressive economic returns,” as Main Street America puts it.
And if it’s beachfront views that you want for Zachary, I can’t help you there!
About Amanda Lanata
Amanda R. Lanata is a Louisiana native who moved to Zachary with her husband a year and half ago. She worked for nine years at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History before moving home and starting a family-owned small business. Now she helps people save their towns at Louisiana Main Street. As a state coordinating program of Main Street America, Louisiana Main Street works with 36 communities to implement a time-tested framework for downtown revitalization.