You know? I’m not ready to do that yet. I’m old. I care about our town, always have. I’ve cared and worked a lot longer than a lot of people who now seem to have all the answers to how we are to survive.
“Meet America’s new pioneer breed
Towns on the Great Plains invoke the American Dream and offer free land to ‘outsiders’ to stem long decline
Paul Harris Ellsworth, Kansas
Sunday May 29, 2005
…Across the Great Plains, small towns from Kansas to North Dakota are desperate to fight off decades of decline and depopulation. Now many have made a last-ditch promise to attract new settlers: go there, build a home and the land will be free.
…Surveying an empty and available lot, filled with prairie grasses blowing in the spring breeze, Anita Hoffhines sees the potential to attract settlers to the small town of Ellsworth, Kansas. One of the lots has already been reserved by a woman from New Jersey. ‘She came and saw it and just loved it,’ said Hoffhines, the economic development director for this tiny town of just over 2,000 souls that sits amid fields of corn.
(Fields of corn??? Where is this person going to find work?)
…Ellsworth has already attracted 10 outsider families with free land and other aid, such as help with down payments, free membership of a golf club, free connection to the sewage and water systems and help finding a job. It is also changing the ethnic make-up of one of the whitest parts of America. In Ellsworth last week a Hispanic family moved in. A Peruvian is on the way.
(Ethnic diversity is a good thing. Have these people been promised jobs?)
…Ellsworth has just two traffic lights and a neat and tidy Main Street where everybody knows everybody else. Crime is rare (a recent scandal was a drunk mooning in public) and houses and cars are left unlocked. Sitting in the stands of the school sports field watching their children play baseball on a warm evening, the Bayless family appear to be the epitome of an American way of life that is increasingly rare.
(Two traffic lights? Hummm. Where’s the “other” one? A drunk mooning in public? I missed that one. I lock my house and car and about everyone I know does, particularly since it’s been so well advertised world wide that it’s so safe here we don’t lock our houses or cars. Baseball stands on the school grounds? Where is that exactly?)
…Today more than 25 percent of the town’s citizens are over 65. ‘I say to those old timers who don’t like what we are doing: “Well, who’s going to replace you when you die?” We have to start thinking like that,’ said Hoffhines.
(She can say that, but that’s not my problem and other old folks who have earned their right to live here don’t have to concern themselves with that. We “old folks” don’t have to sell our houses, move or die, to make room for young folks with kids, as has been suggested. Make me a good New Jersey or San Diego offer and I might sell! )
…Hoffhines aims to stabilize the population, not increase it.
(Yep, that’s what we’ve been doing for a long, long time…nothing new here.)
(I have no objection to the Land Giveaway program except for the location of the land they have given away. I think city officials ought to evaluate exactly what the results are to date of this program. We need more than one family to make it a success. Some families who came did not come for the land give away but the program is taking credit for it. Some people have come and gone. Some were promised jobs that weren’t here. Let’s see exactly what is going on with this program! We old folks with inquiring minds want to know. And, we must remember that the people who live here should be treated with the same dignity and courtesy as those we are trying to lure here by dangling a carrot.)
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