mal ·lea ·ble \ma-lÄ“-É’-bÉ’l \ adjective
capable of being altered or controlled by outside forces or influences, having a capacity for adaptive change
The ability to change is paramount to sustaining a thriving and vibrant community. Outside forces will continue to exist, exert pressure, and, by default, require changes in our towns. Inside forces are also constantly at work. Policy changes, improvement projects, and even changes in personnel and personalities apply their own pressure and necessitate change as well. Heraclitus was right ~ the only constant is change!
With that said, what is really at issue is how we deal with the changes that are bound to come our way. There are countless stories of stores closing, industries leaving, or interchange development occurring. Your ability to understand the forces that drive those changes and their potential ancillary benefits can mean the difference between long term vibrancy and short term decay.
Visiting Bedford, PA, you find yourself in a community that has met the challenges change has brought time and again. The history of Bedford is rich and dates back to the earlier 1700s. The malleable nature of this community has carried it through the centuries to today. Stopping by on a Wednesday in June, you find yourself in the midst of bustling sidewalks, locals on the way to the farmers market and vacationers on their way to Cove Creek or any of the other great establishments.
But first, you need to park. Even on market day, some on-street parking is available. Finding a space isn’t too difficult but plugging the meters is ”¦ delightfully impossible. ”¦ Why? Bedford wanted to make a truly welcoming gesture and instituted a new policy ”“ free parking in the downtown. The policy was easy to implement but it left a charming streetscape with distinctive ”“ and now useless ”“ parking meters every 23 feet. Removing the meters was an option. A costly option. A time-consuming option. An inelegant option.
The solution arrived at in Bedford was none of the above. Instead, the community created a way to accept the change and enhance the streetscape at the same time. This positive chain-reaction started with a policy change and ended with an unexpectedly vibrant streetscape enhancement.
Next time you are faced with change in your community, look for ways to “plus” the idea. Push to be malleable and do so with some decorum and maybe even a little charm.