I am not a gambling woman, but if I were, I’d bet that some good things are ahead for Miami County and Osawatomie in particular. I think 2021 will be a transforming year, and I have some reasons for this belief.

The last 13 years have been rough. The flood of 2007 took a huge toll, and many people adopted the “woe is us!” attitude. The financial losses entailed because of the COVID-19 pandemic made that even worse, but I think that’s all about to change.

The choice of Osawatomie as the trailhead for the Flint Hills Nature Trail, now the Flint Hills Trail State Park and the second state park in the city, happened only because of the foresight and dedication of some of our citizenry. They chose to act to bring about a project in which they believed instead of bemoaning past losses.

The re-emergence of Osawatomie P.R.I.D.E., a group of younger folk committed to “being the change,” adds to my optimism. These are more people ready to tackle problems and turn them into opportunities.

Then there is the fact that Osawatomie has been awarded a “Planning Sustainable Places” grant by the Mid-America Regional Council. That means even more positive changes are on the way. There have been other indications of progressive change.

Several new businesses have opened and others have reinvented themselves to meet today’s challenges. New housing has appeared — always a sign of renewed vigor. In addition, two of our historic sites are soon to be repaired and enhanced. There may be more.

It’s important to recognize these signs. Osawatomie’s residents have a 167-year history of responding, planning and implementing changes to improve our “town between two rivers” our “city of blended streams,” and to make it “sustainable.” I think those leading the way will insure that positive changes happen.

One hundred years ago, Osawatomie Graphic editor R. G. Fisher announced in a front-page banner that “Every Week is Progress Week in Osawatomie.” His sub-heading proclaimed that “Now Is the Time to Act.” I’d like to see that sense of determination carried out in this new year.

Attorney Ben F. Winchel was the Chamber of Commerce president back then, and he stated his faith in the city’s possibilities. He urged Graphic readers to realize that “It’s time to forget what’s not been done. The day has arrived when cooperative concentrated boosting, action and civic pride will get results.”

That’s too much to put on a t-shirt, but it can still be our slogan.

Turned out that Winchel was right. Within a year, new residences were built in the west end of town. City councilmen declined approval for a tin building and condemned others which were replaced by those of modern brick.

The Farmers’ Elevator was enlarged. A new restaurant appeared on Main Street, Planning began for a new water and light plant. Eleven city blocks were paved. The railroad planned spending “vast sums of money” to improve conditions in the shops and yards. A series of fine arts programs began, and there was much more activity in every area of city life. Not to be outdone in the ways of progress, Wichel himself installed an up-to-date dictaphone in his law office.

None of this “just happened.” The rejuvenation of this city and its Main Street in 1920-21 was the result of rigorous efforts to improve the character, the spirit, the appearance and the dignity of Osawatomie.

We may be called upon to assist with the present tasks and to demonstrate our own civic pride and commitment. Each one of us is capable of doing just that. By working together to benefit our community and helping in every way that we can, we, too, will “be a part of the change.”

Margaret Hays is a longtime Osawatomie resident who writes a weekly column for The Miami County Republic.

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