On October 2, Members of the Rural Policy Advisory Commission (RPAC), along with legislators and supporters, announced the release of the Rural Policy Plan for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
The RPAC benefited from the leadership of two CDC Executive Directors: Dave Christopolis of CDC, in Western MA, and Jay Coburn of Community Development Partnership, on Cape Cod. MACDC’s Director of Advocacy David Bryant and Senior Policy Advocate Don Bianchi attended the launch at the Massachusetts State House.
The Plan is a culmination of the work of RPAC, which was created by the State Legislature in 2015 with a mission to “enhance the economic vitality of rural communities.” Defined as municipalities with population densities of less than 500 persons per square mile, the 170 rural communities comprise 59% of the land area in Massachusetts but only 13% of its population. In presenting an overview of the Plan, Linda Dunlavy, Executive Director of the Franklin Regional Council of Governments and RPAC’s Chair, noted how rural communities in Massachusetts are losing population and are aging, and face unique challenges such as inadequate infrastructure and limited local fiscal resources and staffing capacity.
The Plan’s top priorities are:
Expand diversity and implement relocation strategies to boost population in rural Massachusetts;
Develop a statewide land use plan/growth management strategy;
Determine and create a rural factor within state funding formulas.
The Plan also outlines existing best practices, ideas, and recommendations for improving the economic vitality of rural communities. Importantly, it calls for the creation of the Office of Rural Policy, to provide purposed focus on rural issues and advance the recommendations in the Plan.