Thursday, August 16, 2012

Barnard, Kansas: Hope Endures

Barnard has potential...lots of potential.  Over the years I have been involved in the Barnard community, I have seen the potential grow.  Outside of the politics, Barnard is a tranquil and friendly community that has a rich and enduring history.  That history has the potential to propel Barnard into its future.

Many rural communities are facing population decline and possible death.  The  "Dead Towns" column in the Hutchinson paper chronicles those towns that are almost nothing but a memory.  Amy Bickel brings those towns to life...for an her articles and blog.  Barnard could turn into one of those stories if its potential is not tapped.  Many rural communities are also finding varying levels of rebirth by hard work, discovering a niche that can be filled, and utilizing resources offered by county, state, and federal programs.

Something that can be said about the people who settled Barnard and the people who continue to call it home is that they were and still are resilient.  People worked hard to build a town that they dreamed to build.  They utilized resources available such as hauling buildings into this town from both of the Milo town sites.  Determination built Barnard, Kansas.  The three Barnard newspapers chronicled the building  of Barnard as well as advocating ideals to keep it growing.

In 1910, Barnard had a population of over 400 people.  Since then, the population has been in decline.  The 2000 census marked the Barnard population as 70.  A recent informal count has indicated that nearly 10% has been lost since that figure with a potential additional loss of two more households.  The need for growth touted by the Barnard Bee in 1902 is still a relevant issue 110 years later...though there doesn't seem to be any documentation from that time calling the issue controversial.

There are still buildings in downtown Barnard that can play a role in some sort of economic revival in Barnard.  The Salt Creek Cafe may at last be a long-term anchor for some redevelopment in Barnard's former business district.

There is currently a housing shortage is north central Kansas which Barnard could benefit from with proper marketing strategies.  Many of the fixer-uppers are now gone with more to follow, but the empty lots left behind that are now owned by the city still hold promise for new residents IF those lots are marketed and various programs tapped into.

Spurring growth in Barnard can be done, although it will not be easy.  If you don't believe it can be done, then it can't.  However, I believe it can be done with the same determination and community spirit that the original Barnard settlers demonstrated.  If we work together as a team and a community, we can do it.  Using Barnard's heritage as a resource to preserve the old memories as well as using that heritage and those memories to help us build a new future can ensure Barnard's survival.

Some sort of growth is made blatantly necessary by current situations.  The City of Barnard is in the process of selling $108,000 worth of general obligation bonds and may have to sell more.  This is a hefty burden for a city with less than 70 people.  A former county commissioner and former Barnard mayor informed me that the debt value of the bonds may double at the 30 year mark.  that means the total repayment could potentially be in the neighborhood of $216,000. Growth and population stabilization is necessary to ensure Barnard's survival as an incorporated city.  Research indicates that a leading cause of municipal unincorporation is the failure to repay debt.  I believe Barnard can grow and must grow.  We can do it if we work together.

Earlier in this writing, I used a word that has amused, disappointed, and to a certain extent...disillusioned me.  That word is "controversial."  A Barnard business recently told me that they wouldn't display any Banter marketing materials because it was too "controversial."  The "controversial" notice that the city recently took out in the Lincoln Sentinel seems to support that.  However, let's think about it.  Is it really controversial to want to preserve local heritage, open a library and a community gym, investigate opening a gas station, and market our town to potential residents?  Personally, I think controversy exists when a government entity engages in dishonest and unethical practices, fails to listen to its constituents, and harasses those who disagree with its actions.  Government, in theory, is supposed to act in the best interest of and at the will of those who are governed.  When it fails to do so, that is what is controversial.

I believe Barnard can survive if we work together as a community.  Our efforts will succeed with good, honest, and hard work.  Barnard isn't territory that belongs to one person or a group of people.  It belongs to all of us who call it home.  God bless Barnard and may it never be just a memory.

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