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“Ironically rural America has become viewed by a growing number of Americans as having a higher quality of life not because of wat it has, but rather because of what it does not have.” This quote from an unknown author found by a graduate student in the University of Nebraska Rural Initiative focuses on a poin we often forget.
No doubt you can name many things we are happy not to have in rural Nebraska: smog, traffic jams, urban canyons, lack of green or open spaces, the list goes on. Many of these “deficiencies” amount to assets that rural areas may be able to turn into future opportunities. For example Dr. Larry Swanson, a rural sociologist, originally from Nebraska and now at the University of Montana, made the point that young people, like his twenty‐ something sons, are going to be looking for places to move that have amenities because “they can’t afford to buy a house in western Montana.” By “amenities” he is speaking of rivers, the wide open spaces, big skies and lush prairies, mountains, lakes, forests, and wildlife. Rural Nebraska offers many of the amenities his sons and others like them are seeking. We rank 10th in stream miles nationally, we have pine forests in the West and beautiful broadleaf trees in the Northeast and Southeast, expansive prairies with the Sandhills being the largest, and abundant wildlife. At least some of these enterprising young people who might consider Nebraska as they search for new roots will bring their ownjobs with them or create them when they settle down. Retirees are another group who look for affordable places with amenities that offer an enjoyable lifestyle. Yet to appeal to these potential future rural Nebraskans we need to be planning long term to insure that the basics that underie any successful community are built and maintained. I’m talking about the broad category of infrastructure.