WYMORE – The city of Wymore has seen community improvement groups come and go. But that doesn’t deter the members of the recently formed Wymore/Blue Springs Area Development group, who say they plan to make a lasting impact on the community.
Since being founded last year, the group has gotten a small start, building a “mini park” in a vacant space in downtown Wymore. The “park” is a newly paved area downtown with open patches for plants, as well as a new bench and white fence, complete with a banner that says “Home of the Southern Raiders.” The project was funded by donations and installed with the help of city employees and volunteers, according to a development group email.
That small start, said group vice president Dale Crawford, is the first step to getting the community on board with public improvements.
“It took a vacant lot – it was really an eyesore – and made it useful,” Crawford said. “You have to have a group of dedicated people who want to see the community better. We need to lead the way.”
The community development group also set up a directory of notable locations and people in the window of a vacant building in downtown Wymore to improve the appearance of that property.
Crawford said he has been involved in economic development in communities, and that he thinks the Wymore/Blue Springs group is a good way to get the community excited about progress and creating a better environment for residents and businesses.
The Wymore/Blue Springs Area Development group meets on the last Wednesday of every month at 7 p.m. at the Wymore Public Library.
Crawford said the group currently is organizing as an affiliate of the Nebraska Community Foundation, a statewide organization that helps local communities develop community improvement programs, including finance, strategy and training.
Janice Cohorst, one of the Wymore/Blue Springs group’s leaders, said the community foundation has helped other towns like Diller and Atkinson in north Nebraska do wonderful things. She said the foundation helps local groups manage their finances, although affiliate groups agree to abide by specific methods of fundraising approved by the foundation.
“We sure hope we can see some big changes in our communities,” Cohorst said. “Other communities that belong (to the foundation), it’s amazing what they do in their communities. We’re hoping once we get started and do a couple of projects, the community and other people that have ties with the community like students and ministers will help us out.”
Nebraska Community Foundation representative Greta Leach will be at a public forum at the Blue Springs Memorial Firemen’s Hall on Feb. 11 at 6 p.m., Cohorst said. Leach wants to meet with what she calls “high hope” people in the community who have ideas about improving the area. Anyone is welcome, and a meal will be provided at the meeting.
Once they’ve had input from community members, Cohorst said the community development group will more concretely define its mission, begin informational projects for fundraising and start applying for grants.
Crawford said the group’s next project likely will be to install new signage along Highway 77 to help people who aren’t from Wymore or Blue Springs find their way to the various sports fields that are spread throughout the area.
In the long term, Crawford and Cohorst said they would like to help the city of Wymore address the community’s big concern with dilapidated buildings.
“One of the things we want to do is take the pressure off the city government” to deal with dilapidated buildings, Crawford said. “Tearing down a building is costly, not only to purchase it but have the inspection. We want to provide funds to help the city government and make that more feasible.”
Wymore City Council member Keith Ottersberg is a member of the community development group. He said the city has limited funds for public projects, and it would be a bonus if the development group were to work together with the city.
Ottersberg clarified that the city of Wymore is already engaged with the issue of dilapidated buildings.
“Nothing with the city (government) will change,” Ottersberg said,. “We’re still trying to come up with funds for demolition, trying to access property owners to take care of the properties, see if we can get property owners to do it themselves.
“The group might contribute to building deconstruction, or volunteer to clean up property that needs to get picked up.”
Future projects might also include improving playgrounds and parks in Blue Springs and Wymore, Ottersberg said, making them safer for children.
He said the community development group is still fairly new, so it hasn’t had long to establish a working relationship with the city. Ottersberg hopes to have group members meet with the city council.
“We’re a new group just getting started. It’s going to take a while to get funds, to get started – it’s a slow process,” Ottersberg said. “Any support we can get from the public is appreciated.”
Group member Glennis McClure, who also is the director of the NGage countywide economic development group, said the projects being planned in Wymore and Blue Springs emphasize that the Wymore/Blue Springs community development group isn’t standalone – it’s a cooperative effort with other entities like sports booster clubs and the city governments.
“This is really new, but I hope all city and village offices look at it as a real plus that more people want to get things done and help with funding projects,” McClure said.
“It’s exciting,” she said. “I’m glad something good is happening.”