In 2011 a group of citizens in the village of Bedsted took the initiative to organize a town beautification group to – well beautify the village of Bedsted. The initiative arose from a wish to attempt a turn around in a local community that was slowly loosing inhabitants resulting in empty houses and general decline. The initiative corresponds well with the current actions taken by the city council in Thisted to improve living conditions in small villages and rural areas by clearing away desolate houses thus making room for new houses or local initiatives like a village green or a playground. The beautification group works together with Thisted Municipality and volunteers from Bedsted. At the beginning of the year the beautification group meets up with all the volunteers to discuss upcoming projects, new volunteer groups and to organize work days. Subsequently the volunteers are responsible for their own allocated areas and the organization of tasks, work plans and so forth. This way it is possible to draw on people’s resources without burdening them with tasks they are not interested in. The overall idea is that people only volunteer for projects that suit their temperament, work schedule, interests and so on. The flat organizational structure of the town beautification group allows for the volunteers’ own initiatives to come forth which in turn strengthens everyone’s dedication to the tasks at hand.
Bedsted Town Beautification Ltd.
In the fall of 2012 the town beautification group initialized the founding of a private limited company aimed at raising money for the various beautification projects in Bedsted, especially the buying and selling of property. Within a short period of time assurance was given for an amount of 147.000 DKK, 15.000 of which as a gift. A general meeting was called and the company was a fact. Shareholders are citizens, associations and businesses that all view their shares in Bedsted Town Beautification Ltd. as an investment in the future of the village. Shortly after its establishment the company purchased its first property, Østergade 14 quickly followed by Østergade 16. One of the lots had been vacant for a long time while the other had been recently cleared by Thisted Municipality as part of the demolition plan. The plan is to prepare the two lots for sale in 2014. Bedsted Town Beautification Ltd. is optimistic about the possibilities of a sale due to the fact that the mood has changed in Bedsted in recent years. People in Bedsted take matters into their own hands instead of passively waiting for the city council to take the initiative. Partnership and citizen involvement are key elements in the cooperation between Thisted municipality and the town beautification group in Bedsted.
A Green Lot at Vestervigvej 35-37
When the city council in Thisted in 2013 cleared away an old abandoned house at Vestervigvej 35 it was a marked improvement of the area, but the empty lot was a challenge in itself. If left alone, it would quickly become just as uninspiring to look at as the old house had been. With those prospects in mind, the town beautification group offered to maintain the lot if the city council arranged for the area to be leveled and sown with grass. A team of volunteers are now responsible for the park, cutting the grass in the summer and clearing the pavement of snow in the winter. The little park now features a picnic table and bench and the well cared for area gives out inviting and positive vibes to bypassers.
From Nursing Home to School Camp
The partnership with the city council also includes planning the future of the closed nursing home in Bedsted, Rønhedecenteret. The council’s original plan was to demolish the buildings, but the town beautification group saw a lot of potential in the old nursing home. And after talks with several stakeholders, the city council agreed to retain the newest building in the complex to let it be converted into a privately funded school camp. The council will finance the demolition of the older buildings while resources for the conversion of the remaining 16 apartments into premises suitable for a school camp will be obtained through funds. Bedsted is located in bicycling distance from Thy National Park and the train service makes the village an easily accessible destination for schools.
Rønhede Plantation is 100 acres of wood land in walking distance from the village and features signposted paths, playground and campfire site. As one of its first assignments the town beautification group commissioned a renovation of the path leading up to the plantation. The path now has stabilized gravel and is better suited for running, cycling and walking. Along the path the town beautification group and the local water utility Thisted Vand, have established a community green where a retention pond originally designed to manage stormwater, now doubles as a little lake. Picnic tables and benches have been sponsored by local businesses. As is the trademark of the town beautification group, volunteers maintain the area in cooperation with Thisted Vand.
The people involved in the town beautification group are confident about the future of their village. They put it this way: ”As it turns out, resourceful families and individuals are the ones who chose rural life. Because keeping the village communities alive and well demands an extra effort. No where is it carved in stone that the grocer or the local school will still be here in 15 years. But in turn for the extra effort you put in, you get a better quality of life, where a sense of unity and belonging to a community prevails”. And these are much appreciated values in the village of Bedsted.