For the past three months, nine UNL landscape architecture students have been studying the community of Broken Bow - the businesses, the residential areas, the parks. Monday evening that group of students presented their final plans to the community consisting of their ideas for improving what we have and creating what we need for community growth and development.
This was the third meeting of the student group, called team Nexus, and Professor Kim Wilson, with patrons and leaders of the community. The first meeting, back on Sept. 12, sought to solicit input from residents, business owners and city officials on what they would like to see for the community. A small group attended that meeting and discussed what they saw as assets, drawbacks and the future vision for Broken Bow.
At that time the students also visited with the city council, stopped in to local businesses, coffee shops and talked to citizens on the street to gain insight in to the community. The students spent countless hours examining the town and taking pictures. They took all that information and put together a plan based on the following vision statement: Linking community needs with design excellence to improve the quality of life in Broken Bow by addressing the family, industry and opportunity.
In developing their plan, the students set three main goals for accomplishing this vision:
1) Broken Bow becomes a regional center
• Attracting young people and promoting community involvement are among the top priorities for this framework plan. This can be done through developing green spaces and recreational spaces, capitalizing on the town’s history, promoting walkability and reviving downtown.
2) Stimulate Broken Bow economy
• Developing the local economy by creating a better working environment near growing industries and exploring tourism.
3) Increase social capital through greenways
• Utilizing neglected and overlooked spaces like Highway 2 and Muddy Creek while mitigating effects of barriers.
The students returned to Broken Bow Oct. 11, when they presented their plan to a full room of spectators in the City Council chambers. They then took those plans and created a proposed project, which was presented Monday. The group was divided into teams of two or three individuals, with each team assigned a particular area of the project.
The first team to present their proposal addressed the area of streets, sidewalks and pathways throughout the city. They suggested the area coming in to town from the east does little to attract visitors. In fact, one student was quoted as saying, “It just makes you want to get through it as fast as you can.”
The students feel there is just too much concrete and not enough vegetation along the entrance of the community between Pump & Pantry and 1st Avenue. They counted 38 driveways in just that stretch of Highway 2.
While the sidewalks along the route are in good condition, the students say they are just not very walkable. They proposed removing some of the driveways and having businesses share driveways, creating more green scape. The proposal calls for the addition of low maintenance grasses between the highway and the sidewalks and trees between the sidewalks and businesses.
Another major route in the city is Memorial Drive. The team suggested expanding the walkway along this street to incorporate a bike path and wider walking path, and adding more vegetation.
They also looked at ways of making 9th and 10th Avenues more pedestrian friendly, encouraging walkers to venture from the north side of town to downtown.
A major point of interest for the team was Muddy Creek, and they have created a project they have dubbed “The Great Muddy Greenway.” In this project, the team looked at improving the aesthetics of the area, as well as water and wildlife management.
They researched soil data of the surrounding area, and land uses of the creek area. The ultimate goal of this project was to create a trail system along the creek while maintaining the 100-year flood system for which it was designed.
The team came up with a concept which would add hiking and biking trails along the north side of the creek between 14th Avenue and 5th Avenue. Lots of colorful vegetation would be incorporated, along with access points to the trail from various locations. This would serve to connect the north and south sides of the community, which now are divided down the middle by railroad tracks, industrial areas and Muddy Creek.
The industrial district along the railroad tracks is a source of concern for the team. It is viewed as a harsh separation between the downtown area and the north side residential area. The team suggested that some of these businesses, such as the sale barn, could be better served by being closer to the highway as the railroad system is no longer used in that capacity.
Truck traffic along this area was also a concern, and viewed by the team as detrimental to the area. The creation of family housing along this area is restricted, they feel, because of these issues.
One of the areas the team feels needs addressed is the expansion of retail businesses in the downtown area of Broken Bow. While some residents in the past meetings have viewed parking as a problem in the downtown area, the team of students did not agree with that assessment. They feel there is adequate parking, and instead concentrated more on ways to increase foot traffic in that area of the community.
“If people spend more time on foot they will spend more money, and that is the idea,” said one of the students.
Some of the ideas for revitalizing the downtown district included adding a second story to some of the buildings to create more of a skyline, and adding lots of vegetation such as flowers and trees. One of the buildings the team concentrated on updating is the Custer County Museum.
The team has always recognized the importance of history and heritage in the community, and believes we can capitalize on that with improvements to draw visitors to the museum. Along with a second story, the design plan creates large windows along the south side of the building facing the highway which could be used to display large murals, or perhaps some of the Solomon Butcher collection.
These were just some of the highlights of the proposed project from team Nexus. The walls of the Municipal Auditorium were lined with the design plans and information the team had compiled, and those in attendance at Monday’s meeting commended the group for their hard work. The comprehensive plan will now be turned over to the city, who in turn will decide where to go from here.
“We are very excited at what you have done. Your work has inspired us,” audience member Karen Smith told the students at the conclusion of Monday’s presentation.
Others in the audience shared Smith’s enthusiasm and say they are excited to see some of the changes that lie ahead for the community.