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With the economy in its current state, many communities are hurting.But there is one small town in southwest Missouri that’s going ahead with the revitalization with its downtown anyway.KSMU’s Ryan Farmer traveled just 10 miles south of Springfield, and took a stroll around Ozark, Missouri’s downtown square.
[Reporter]-“It’s a beautiful day out here in Ozark, there are people just out and about on the square this morning, and life is bustling just like any other country town. I’m walking an old red brick walkway.”
Though many communities are stressing about the ailing economy, the way of life in Ozark goes on.Steve Childers, Ozark’s Director of Planning and Development, says that he thinks the Ozarks are not as affected by the economy as the rest of the nation.
“The city of Ozark and Southwest Missouri as a whole is I think in a lot better situation. There have been some layoffs in this area but again not as extensive as they have been in other parts of the country. Simply because we don’t have the manufacturing base in this part of the country as everybody else does. So when you look at Ozark and you try to compare it to the rest of the country, I think its really apples and oranges,” says Childers.
With this sort of mindset, Childers says that the city is able to move forward with economic development, and relatively quickly. Development and renovation projects for Ozark span different parts of the city.One big renovation for Ozark, will be giving the town’s historic downtown a facelift. And residents of Ozark know that their town is truly historic; it’s the site where a group of vigilantes known as the Boldknobbers were sent to the gallows.
[Reporter]-“In the middle there is a gazebo, and standing right in front of me, is an old wooden sign that reads, ‘historic marker sight of Baldknobber hanging, May1889.’ There was a historical event that happened here in Ozark with the Baldknobbers, and when they were found out that they were doing a little mistreatment of the quote “lawless” here in town, they were themselves in fact hung, right on this very spot where I stand, in the center of Ozark.”Childers says the downtown renovation will include new restaurants and entertainment venues, more adequate parking, and a well-lit sidewalk. The city is also planning to landscape the square.He adds that Ozark aspires to be known for more than just an exit sign.
“Right now we are the town between Bass Pro and Branson. We’d rather be Ozark Missouri. We want to give you a reason to pull off the highway, get entertained. And admire the beauty of the Finley River," says Childers.
Childers says despite the poor economy, small Ozarks towns can still have a positive outlook.He says that his town’s growth and development could happen in any small town.
“The idea, that we are all still just small communities, is an idea that we’re going to have to start letting go of. You can maintain the appeal of a small town character that you may have. But you’ve got to understand we’re living in a global economy. Our city limits are not where it starts and finishes," says Childers.
In bringing its old downtown back to life, the city of Ozark hopes to act as an example for other small towns to follow
For KSMU News, I’m Ryan Farmer, in Ozark, Missouri.