Last week I wrote of failed opportunities in this community. I also received a lot of flak from disgusted readers on the online blog version maintained by the Gazette. All of those bloggers of course demonstrated their courage by remaining anonymous. I do like the positive comments however, anonymous or not. Today though I write of things done right!
The Kiplinger Arena is a real jewel and draws participants with Western interests from far and wide. There is activity there literally every day of the year, a positive economic engine for this area. Interestingly it was built over many objections from the past city manager and at least one council member who forecast "horse turds" floating in the street gutters. Doesn't happen!
The "new" YMCA building was a community funded project put together by a task force of volunteers. It is a huge source of healthful community activity and houses such diverse activities as a dynamic Head Start school activity. It also hosts the swimming and diving activities for the adjacent high school
Community leader giant, Gazette Publisher Harry Strunk, aided by Don Thompson and a host of other community leaders had the vision and did the leg work that caused the creation of large flood control dams and associated irrigation projects along the Republican River and its tributaries. Here we are living in the center of the "Great American Desert" and yet have water recreation, boating and good fishing on our lakes all within a few miles drive. The result of their dream is communities and major agriculture production areas free from the potential ravages of periodic flooding all with a bonus of higher yielding crops from irrigation.
The original building on the fairgrounds that housed the Senior Center was a project put together by non-elected volunteers. Again the Community Center and 4-H building at the Fairgrounds are used daily and resulted from the visions of non-elected persons.
We live in a community of churches from all sorts of Christian beliefs. Beautiful buildings, dynamic congregations reaching out to fulfill the needs of the faithful and non-believers alike. Two major congregations host thriving thrift stores. The Methodists, aided by other local organizations, do a weekly "feed the flock" free meal outreach that averages about 100+ persons a week free and welcome to all comers. Each fall a volunteer organization does a "coat closet" to provide warm clothing free to anyone with a need -- no questions asked. The Toy Box volunteers work year round to provide toys for children in need at Christmas. There is a dynamic giving food bank available to the needy. Homeless? Unknown in this area because an entity called MID steps forth to care for any that have found themselves in dire straits.
Is there a trend here? So many of the things that make this a great community in which to live are not the products of local government. They are given to us by persons who have a dream, who see a need and have the enterprise and initiative to carry their projects to fruition. It isn't the local government that has provided the impetuses and all too often it is the local government that puts obstacles in the way.
Now local government also does many things well. This is a safe community, safe for children by the hundreds to go all over town to trick or treat as we saw Halloween evening. Our daughter Moira lives in Tulsa. She and her two pre-teen children visited recently. She commented that she felt easy letting her two children walk unescorted to Kelly Park and to the swimming pool by themselves, an activity that she would refrain in her own upscale community at home in Oklahoma.
Tennis courts and baseball/softball complexes provide safe and healthful activities for our youth. We have a world-class golf course that draws players far and wide as well as a huge number of local regulars. We have a great walking trail, many playgrounds, and parks -- all places that people can exercise and enjoy in perfect safety. No organized gangs, little criminal activity as sadly is all too often found in larger cities.
Our streets and alleys are nearly all paved and well cared for by our city staff. Sadly, though, the sidewalks are a little too neglected to suit me and seem to be an area that is long neglected by the powers that be. Our sewer and trash collection system works well. We are blessed with a plentiful and safe water supply. A recent effort cleaned up and made the highway entrances to the city much more attractive. And the airport! Although mis-named, it is busy with general aviation, a fixed wing air ambulance available 24/7 and it is served by a feeder airline.
Our schools are among the best anywhere. A real jewel in our crown is the local college, the first junior college in the State of Nebraska. One only has to walk through the campus to note the names on the buildings and realize that the majority were built from donations from persons in the community. Just announced is a half-million locally-funded grant to help in the building of a large activity building that will also serve as a community center.
McCook has a dynamic collection of specialty shops "on the bricks." The Bieroc is a highlight with a bakery, coffee shop (only the truth is spoken daily therein) and regularly attracts name entertainment one would expect to find only in a larger venue. We do an area-wide storytelling festival and annually celebrate Heritage Days. We also have a large "box store" that draws customers from a large area. We are blessed with a wide variety of restaurants ranging from fast food to a high-class supper club.
One can be born here in a first class hospital, find good jobs during a long productive life, move to retirement living complexes and on to a clean well lighted and caring nursing home to end your days. We even maintain attractive well cared cemeteries for all eternity.
Our major industry is agriculture and we are blessed with a large trade area. A real plus is the ag-associated industry that provides good jobs. Ann and I have been privileged to live all over the United States and traveled the world over but chose to return and call this place home. Sure it is not perfect, but we still think that it is the best place to live in the entire world.
That is the way I saw it.