I’ve never been quite sure what to make of this plan to build a Discovery Center, whatever that may be, in downtown Manhattan. I don’t really get the point, and have generally considered it to be a get rich quick scheme on the part of some developer or consulting firm. We’ve all seen the Simpsons monorail episode, haven’t we?
The other day, as I was rolling through western Kansas returning from Colorado, where I had gone for a brief vacation, it hit me that this is the kind of thing that all Kansas towns along the I-70 corridor do to try to lure people to stop and spend their money. Actually, it’s something that all towns in drive-through states do. If you’ve ever driven through Kansas, some of this may sound familiar:
- Ride the world-famous C.W. Parker carousel
- Visit Wilson, Czech capital of Kansas
- Shop Wichita
- See the tigers at Rolling Hills
and my personal favorite:
- See the world’s largest prairie dog!
What’s sad is that that same corridor shows so many signs of decay and neglect: abandoned outlet malls, derelict Stuckey’s, closed gas stations, porn shops where kids used to eat ice cream, etc. The fact is that people drive big, fast cars nowadays and don’t need to stop nearly as often, I suspect. It makes all of those billboards and the attractions they advertise seem just a tad desperate: please, please stop in our town and leave a few dollars. Rather than trying to attract tourists with random things, wouldn’t it just make more sense to develop the community to make it livable and pleasant for the existing population? If one does that, it stands to reason that people will stay, businesses will find it worthwhile to remain there, and the community will slowly but surely grow over time. Do we really need to join all those other towns in hanging out a shingle for a gimmick?