Small Town in the Great Plains, USA
Neuharth, Al. "Small Town in the Great Plains." USA Today, 22 April 2005, sec. 15A.
Eureka, S.D.- For years, small towns on prairies across
the USA have been getting smaller as young people move to big cities.
Now, some town fathers are trying unique ways to reverse the trend.
In Crosby, N.D., (population 1,089) they’ll give you a free
plot of land if you’ll build a new home. A free country club
membership is thrown in.
In Ellsworth, Kan., (population 2,965) they’ll give you free
land and also the down payment for a new house if you have school-age
Here in my birthplace (population 1,101) they’ll give you
a highly discounted low-interest loan if you’ll reopen and
run the hardware store or lumberyard that recently closed down.
When I was 29, I left South Dakota for the big cities. But since
my “retirement” in Florida at age 65, I’ve been
back often. A few years ago, I was able to buy the old family home
in which I was born. I was shocked that the average three-bedroom
house here sells for only about $15,000, with taxes of around $400
Now, those taxes may go up a few dollars, for good reason. Last
week, voters here approved a bond issue for a big, new artesian
well to guarantee that this town’s beautiful landmark lake
will continue to have enough water. A year ago, they “opted
out” of a state freeze on school tax increases, because they
want to ensure continuing their first class public school system.
Mayor Mark Opp pushed both of those tax-increase measures. Opp,
43, has parents who are 79 and children who are 19, 18, 14, and
2. He wants to make sure this little town continues to have the
right environment for young and old.
If you really mean it when you say you’d like to “get
away from it all,” check out these little prairies towns.
You might end up exclaiming, “Eureka, I’ve found it!”
That’s what my German-Russian ancestors said when they came
here nearly 150 years ago.
Other views on small towns
“People with small children living in a large community would
appreciate the benefits of living in a small rural setting. Small
classrooms and summer recreational opportunities for the entire
family are common traits you will find in most rural communities.”
- Robert Homolka, mayor of Ellsworth, Kan.
“Crosby wants to attract families with portable jobs or business
start-ups, and the free lots and free memberships to organizations
within the county are tools we are using to market to families outside
- David Olson, director of Economic Development for
Divide County, N.D.
Reprinted with permission of the USA Today.