Envisioning a Bold Future for Broken Bow

A small group of community members met with several UNL students Monday evening to discuss the assets, drawbacks and future vision for Broken Bow. The students are members of the UNL landscape architect program, and with the help of Professor Kim Wilson and Sandy Scofield of the UNL Rural Initiative, they will be working with the community to develop a comprehensive plan for the city. The outcome will be full of ideas for projects, ways to involve the citizenry, different approaches to consider and suggestions based on community input. City Administrator Tony Tolstedt brought the idea of the study to the city council at the June meeting. "I guarantee you will not get this comprehensive data at this cost - probably ever," Tolstedt told the council at that meeting. The UNL Community Plan and Design Study is a very comprehensive compilation of data for land and building usage for the city. At that June meeting the council agreed to authorize a budget of $4,000 for UNL to work with in developing the plan for Broken Bow. The UNL students attended this week’s city council meeting as well, and met with department and committee heads following that meeting. The students are interested in feedback from the community on two key questions: what do you want your community to look like 10 years from now?; and, what are the short term challenges you face to achieve this? In Monday’s meeting with city personnel, one of the issues discussed was the need for young families to want to move to Broken Bow. Dan Anderson, of the City Parks Department, pointed out some of the positive steps the city has taken such as the new soccer fields, ballfields and aquatic center being built. There are also plans to add new walking and bike trails. This was an issue that was also touched on Monday evening at the community input session. The idea of having a hike/bike trail connecting all of the city’s parks and downtown area appealed to nearly everyone in attendance. Housing needs is an issue brought up by both city administrators and community members. Most feel additional housing in needed in Broken Bow in the form of both rental and new homes and senior living townhomes. Professor Wilson pointed out that when discussing possible future development areas it is best to look within the city limits already served, as it becomes expensive to extend utilities. Some of the other ideas bounced around at both meetings included a beautification project for downtown Broken Bow, and Mayor Cecil Burt suggested there is a need for public restrooms. Burt says he would also like to see outdoor tennis courts, playground equipment at the new ballfield, an addition to the fire hall and an addition to the library. At the community input meeting discussion was generated on the benefits of a community building, which could host fine arts and concert events as well as a host of other community events. That idea was also mentioned in the city meeting. Overall, most of those involved in the discussions are pleased with the available retail in the city, but would like to see additional retail. Some of the city personnel admit it makes them nervous that so many of the retail spaces are occupied by financial businesses, and while they are glad those businesses are there the hope is that should other spaces open they will be filled with retail. In the city meeting the response was that the education is good but that the facilities are not, and those present felt the bond issue would be a very transparent telling of the climate and attitude toward Broken Bow’s educational offerings. That sentiment was also shared in the community meeting, which generated discussion about the future of some of the smaller area schools in relationship to the Broken Bow schools. During discussion on the downtown square, community members present do not want to see much in the way of change. “I would like to see us preserve our heritage, while still being a progressive community,” said Glen Birnie at that community meeting Monday. Both community members and city personnel had ideas and suggestions on making the downtown area a viable shopping and tourist area. Those ideas, as well as all of the others mentioned in the meetings, will be taken back to Lincoln with the students. The students have spent several days just observing the town, taking lots of pictures and visiting with business owners and people on the street. They will now take those ideas back to Lincoln where they will compile all of the data and put those results in the form of a plan for Broken Bow. That plan will be brought back to the city and presented at a public meeting Oct. 11. “This is a holistic approach, and is not going to be something that collects dust on the top shelf,” said Tolstedt. “Broken Bow has so much to offer in the way of history, heritage, culture and character. A great deal of work has been done to bring new businesses to the downtown, support the community with quality health care and develop safe and healthy neighborhoods. We need to take that activity to the logical next step and prepare an ambitious plan to revitalize the downtown, activities and businesses operating in Broken Bow.”