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Passion for city must turn into actions

Boulder City residents love their hometown.

Whether they were born here or chose this as their adopted home, passion for the city runs high.

This was clearly evident Monday night when the Boulder City Chamber of Commerce hosted a think tank session to share concepts it has been working on to counteract the expected adverse effects of Interstate 11 and gather new ideas for promoting the community.

It was on display again Tuesday night when council chambers in City Hall overflowed with residents seeking to express their displeasure with the idea of building a gateway to the city at the intersection of I-11 and U.S. Highway 95.

The possibility that the interstate will have severe economic impacts on the city is real. In a presentation by the University of Vermont on the history and cultural impact the interstate highway system experts wrote, “The construction of Interstate Highways fundamentally altered this pattern of commercial development (connecting travelers to the communities they were driving through) as long-distance travelers abandoned those former routes leaving once-vibrant towns fading into obscurity and busy roadside stores and restaurants struggling to make ends meet.”

But the possibility that Boulder City will continue to thrive is equally real.

A 2000 study by the Economic Development Research Group that tracked the economic impacts of freeway bypasses on the downtown areas of four medium-sized cities said the end results were both positive and negative.

“The wide range of highway bypass studies carried out around the country provides a generally consistent story. They indicate new highways bypassing the central business district of a community are seldom either devastating or the savior of the area. The locational shift in traffic can cause some existing businesses to close up or relocate, but it can also create some new business opportunities. Net economic impacts on the broader community are usually relatively small (positive or negative),” wrote the researchers.

While the cities in that study were significantly larger than Boulder City, it raises a couple of big questions. Do we wait and see what changes will occur after the interstate opens? Do we act now and plan for a reduction in traffic? Or do we do a little bit of both?

Monday’s brainstorming session was a good starting point. Among the roughly 40-50 ideas touched upon were things that could be done now and things that could be done later. A key point was the need to create a solid plan to market the city.

So where exactly do we start? First and foremost, we need to work together. There have been too many attacks on social media criticizing people and their ideas. That won’t get us anywhere.

From what I have seen, people go with what they know and base their ideas off their areas of expertise. That’s only natural.

A person with development experience will likely suggest trying some new type of development.

A person who works in the real estate industry might offer an idea that includes new homes.

A person who works in the entertainment industry would like to see more events in town.

The owner of an antique store wants to find a way to promote visiting antique stores in town.

A National Park Service ranger could suggest finding a way to get those spending time at Lake Mead into the city.

No one should be vilified for sharing their knowledge or opinion.

Just because you don’t happen to agree with a person’s opinion or suggestion or idea, doesn’t make it wrong. And there’s no reason to skewer that person and his or her ideas on social media.

While it is admirable that folks are trying to come up with creative ways to keep the city from dying when the interstate bypasses the community, there are just too many ideas for them all to be successful. The list will definitely need to be narrowed down.

The way I see it, the only way to tackle the issue is for everyone to work together. Compromise is essential, just as it is in most situations where there’s a stalemate.

Hopefully, people’s passion and enthusiasm will carry over into their actions.

Hali Bernstein Saylor is editor of the Boulder City Review. She can be reached at hsaylor@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9523. Follow @HalisComment on Twitter.

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