by nathan oster
An estimated 500 people participated in last week’s community assessment by completing online and paper surveys and attending the 14 listening sessions held around town.
The assessment process ended with a presentation Thursday night in the Herb Asp Community Center, where members of the resource team presented an overview of the major themes that emerged.
Team member Andrea Massey presented an overview of the problems and challenges that were at the forefront of people’s minds during the listening sessions and on the surveys.
Topping the list, she said, is the lack of a swimming pool.
“That was a big one,” she said.
So was the economy. “Jobs, jobs, jobs … we heard that over and over again,” she said.
Other problems and challenges included the need for more industrial growth, attracting tourists and getting them to spend time here and a perceived growing negative attitude among citizens.
People also expressed concern about there being nothing for kids to do, not enough nice rentals, a lack of affordable housing and a lack of assisted living units for the elderly.
“The empty buildings on main street was another one,” said Massey. “We also heard that there is a lack of housing opportunities; people want to know, where are we going to build those houses if people come?”
Massey said the team got an overwhelming number of surveys from young people. In almost all cases, surveys were completed by students as assignments.
“Bullying in the schools is a really big deal here; we heard that loud and clear,” she said. “Drugs and alcohol, too.”
Lastly she mentioned the need for more volunteers to step up and take roles in the community.
Kristen Phipps outlined the strengths of the community.
Topping the list: “To a lot of people, this is home,” she said. “A lot of people have been residents here for a long time. That’s a strength.”
The team also heard a lot of positive feedback about the concrete walk path (an idea that emerged in the 2002 community assessment) as well as the fact that it “has some of the finest, world-class geological and paleontological sites in the world.”
Other assets included having “people who are willing to make Greybull a better place to live,” as well as the community’s can-do spirit and the number of artistic people who live here.
“We also heard that this is such an awesome place to raise kids; in fact, we heard that a lot,” said Phipps.
The first responders are an asset, she said, as are the town’s youth.
According to Phipps, one person said, “Fantastic schools, fantastic grocer, friendly older folks, nice parks and we’re so close to the mountains.”
Added Phipps, “People feel it’s a great small town where people are friendly, schools are outstanding and there are plenty of activities; word just needs to get out.
“We heard this town has great people with great ideas. Many don’t think the same, politically or personally, but they all care about making this a better town.”
Survey respondents were also asked to identify projects they would like to see pursued in the next two, five, 10 and 20 years. Here’s a list of some of the things the team heard.
• An all-season, family recreation facility on the mesa by the ballfields;
• Reinstate the jake brake light and create silent railroad crossings.
• Concerts in the park.
• More things for people to do, including arcade rooms, bowling alley and movie theater.
• Improved town and chamber websites where people can get more community information.
• Reopen Antelope Butte
• Create a safe walking route to the ballfields at the Art Schutte Athletic Complex
• A park along the Big Horn River.
• Swimming pool, with various themes, including a wading pool, an outdoor pool or an indoor pool.
• Improved entrances to the community
• Trail system on BLM lands
• Restoration and maintenance of the town’s old buildings
• Assisted living facility
• Finish The Shack
• CD containing information about day trips out of Greybull
• Change how the town does things. One said, “Take a risk. Get a little spunkier.”
The team came away with a large stack of surveys completed by students. Shelby Winkler, a senior at GHS, presented an overview of what the students had to say.
The government class at GHS tallied the survey data.
“A lot said our biggest weakness is the lack of jobs,” she said. “The student body feels the town needs more places for students to work.
“Another one was the pool. We really do miss that pool a lot. They don’t care if it’s fancy, indoor or outdoor, they just want a pool again.”
Students also said the town lacks entertainment options. “They wish there was something to do here on the weekends, something like a bowling alley or an arcade.”
Winkler said strengths identified by the students included their education, the way people pitch in to help people in need and the cleanliness of the community.
Projects high on the students’ lists include a bowling alley, swimming pool and additional eating establishments.
Dan Clark discussed the five themes that emerged.
Jobs was the big one. There is an underutilization of town assets (industrial park, railroad, airport), as well as a need for downtown revitalization. Business recruitment and retention, housing and tourism were other big themes.
A second theme was the need for additional community facilities, including a pool, a museum (“some would like it by the airport, others are interested in an anthropological/natural science type of museum. There are many things that could go into a museum complex,” he said.) A multi-use community center was also high on the list.
A third theme dealt with promotion and specifically, the need for new town entrance signs, beautification, marketing and community events.
The fourth theme deal with people. Clark mentioned the need for improved communication, more volunteers and better teamwork. “One comment we got was, ‘We don’t play together very well.” There was also a desire for the community to be “more proactive than reactive.” The town’s growing Hispanic population also was mentioned, as was the gulf between the old and the young. “Twenty years ago, diversity here meant someone with red hair; now it’s different than that.” Diversity can be a tremendous resource. It brings vibrancy, he said.
The fifth and final theme deal with the community’s youth and for the community to come together to solve the problems of bullying, drug and alcohol abuse and the need for more activities for the young people.
Members of the assessment team were volunteers and the only expense to the town was reimbursement of their food and lodging costs.
Porter said the total is likely to be in the range of $1,000.
“It would have cost you $50,000 to $70,000 if you’d have hired it out,” he said, adding that the contributions of team members will count as “in kind” contributions for any future grants the towns pursues.
Porter said the team’s report would be finalized within four to six weeks. It will contain suggestions and recommendations, plus a listing of resources available to the town. The report will be shared with the town and posted online at wyomingrural.org.
Team members will return in two to three months for a priority setting meeting.
“That’ll be your opportunity to set the direction for the community,” said Porter.