Dreaming Up a "Grander Vision" for Grand Island


"What do you have to do between now and then? What are your dreams?"

The year 2025 is coming, and the mayor of Grand Island challenges community leaders plan for the future.

"This is an opportunity to engage people. A proud day," Jay Vavricek said.

With the help of outside facilitators, they scribbled ideas on a whiteboard at City Hall.

Grand Island could be the livestock capital of the nation hosting major stock shows, or it could have a four year college, with education delivered in person or by the fastest internet in the state.

Mayor Vavricek said, "There's no limitations, it comes down to time and energy, but a plan. While we can dream, it has to be practical and we want to go ahead and have a good foundation for the future, and that may be the future what you're seeing here."

It's similar to a process undertaken more than 15 years ago. The top priority was building an arena.

Who knew then proposed arena would end up hosting a football team and the Nebraska State Fair?

Anita Lewandowski-Brown, head of the YWCA says the goal was to make a better Grand Island.

"Fun to look back and see from '97 to 2002 what happened because of last visioning process. And if we could come close to that one more time, it takes us to the next level," she said.

This vision starts in the basement of City Hall. The next step is to get the community involved in setting goals.

Lewandowski-Brown said, "It's incredible to think about what we could have, what we could be. 2025 isn't that long off, and we could, we could change the face of our community."

A group of about two dozen filled the white board with ideas: another high school, an aquatics center, lower crime, low taxes, better jobs, appealing entrances into the city, the elimination of substandard housing, and capitalizing on the Sandhill crane migration, among many others.

The mayor says they dream today, so they can plan tomorrow.

Vavricek said, "It's going to be a neat opportunity."

The 1997 Heartland Vision process encouraged residents to cast votes for their favorite projects. This time, facilitators suggested using Facebook, Twitter, and text messaging to engage younger residents, while also finding ways to connect across the generations.