Chasing Wisdom
by Rob Poggenklass · Op-Ed · May 30, 2007

Hey, West Branch: itís time for a big idea around here
Recent letters to the Times have expressed a certain reluctance, shall we say, to building a recreation center. It detracts from the ďrealĒ needs of the school, the opponents say. We could address other needs first. It wonít solve all our problems.

Yes, of course there are other needs that could be addressed first. First of all, letís start by connecting Pedersen Valley and Greenview with ó what do you call those things again? Oh yeah ó a street. Thatíd be a good start.

Then we might turn to Main Street and fix the cliff posing as a sidewalk on the northwest corner of Downey and Main. While weíre on Main Street, how about we add some more permanent flower planters?

Oh, never mind. Theyíve already been ordered. Thanks, Lou. (Iíll have a story on that later.)

The point is, of course there are a lot of projects to get done, a lot of needs to address. But how long are we willing to wait for each one?

After having lived here just a couple of years, I can say with a fair amount of certainty that no matter what the project, there will be people who say, ďOh, no you donít.Ē

For two years, Iíve been attending these community recreation center meetings. I have seen a big idea tooled and retooled, then whittled a bit and whittled some more.

What we have now is a good plan. Itís not as big as it could be, but itís doable for a community our size. The people who tell you itís not donít give a hoot about Vision Iowa grants and the tremendous savings of a city-school partnership. They just donít want to see it happen, for whatever silly reason.

Some people simply have the mentality that because weíre small, we should always be small and to stay small, we certainly have to think small.

I donít know about you, but Iím tired of small thinking.

Itís time for West Branch to start thinking big. I know this communityís capable of it.

What will make West Branch a better place to live? Fewer recreation facilities? Fewer street improvements? Less cooperation between governments?

Letís try a new line of thinking.

How about asking Johnson County to add a bike path to the Herbert Hoover Highway?

How about connecting the trail from the high school to the Hoover Nature Trail, through the cemetery?

How about some low cost housing options for young families, who donít believe itís responsible to borrow $200,000 for their first home?

How about a í50s-style drive-in movie theatre, that could be a destination spot for miles around?

These are just a few ideas Iíve heard around town recently. Only one of themís mine ó and Iím probably not the first to think of it ó but Iíd get behind any one of them 100 percent.

A few weeks ago, we did a story on what ideas some of this yearís graduates had for West Branch, both as fifth-graders and this year. All of them support a recreation center. One said we need more sidewalks. Another said we need more room for housing.

Those of us who attended commencement last weekend know that this is a class that can think big. They represent whatís good about West Branch. They represent the future.

Letís show the future that big ideas arenít so bad. Spend some time thinking about how to make West Branch a better place to live, then tell somebody else to do the same. When you come up with something, share it. Tell your writer friend to send a letter my way, or compose one yourself. Do your best to leave out the word ďno.Ē

West Branch could use a few big ideas. Thatíd be a good start.

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