What Does it Take to Keep Small Rural Towns Alive?

By Russell Arben Fox for FRONT PORCH REPUBLIC

On the basis of this story out of Morland, KS (population 150, or thereabouts), the answer seems to me: community determination (citizens forming a local foundation to purchase and keep operating the one grocery store left in the area), hard choices (the foundation’s money partly came from the sale of empty school buildings, which resulted from the few remaining local students being sent to the Hill City school district, 25 miles away, since Morland couldn’t support most classes or athletic teams any longer), state policies (which provided the rest of the seed money through a revitalization program), and federal dollars (the money which the state provided had come from the much-derided federal stimulus package of 2009). Will all those components together be enough to keep sufficient commerce flowing through this tiny town to enable it to survive the depopulation and consolidation taking place throughout the Great Plains? In the long run, probably not. But still, 13 years ago, The New York Times featured Morland as typical of the dying farming towns throughout America’s middle. And yet, it’s still there. Perhaps, with the continued determination of citizens who are willing to sacrifice for the sake of holding on to something they find beautiful (and also, though some of Morland’s residents may be reluctant to admit it, with the continued financial support that willing community members can build upon), it may last another 13 years yet.

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