The old Homestead Act is back, sort of--but nobody wants it. If you feel at all bad about your hometown or where you live, consider this: Towns in Kansas are trying to give away land...but can't.
The Kansas City Star reports today that that twelve Kansas towns have offered free land to folks willing to build houses on it and do things like put their kids in local schools and patronize local businesses. Some of these towns have been doing this since at least 2003, and only one, the Star says, has kind of sort of "succeeded;" Marquette has managed to increase its population from 527 in 2003 to nearly 700 today. Look out, Manhattan! Kansas!
Now, I like Kansas a lot. I've seen a decent chunk of the state, and my lovely wife, of course, is kind of a Kansas native. (Her father is a Kansas native.) It turns out that much of Kansas is gorgeous (really!), and, in case you haven't been there, it's a far more interesting place than you might think it is. Lawrence and Manhattan are fun college towns, and Abilene is home to the library of one of the greatest Americans to ever live, President Dwight David Eisenhower. Kansas has some stuff going for it. Seriously.
But...parts of it are a little remote. And then other parts of it are very remote. And that's where, if my Kansas geography isn't failing me here, at least a few of the free-land towns are located--in very remote Kansas. Plus, one of the towns is actually called Plainville, which just doesn't seem like good marketing. Could the town not rename itself Excitementville? That move could only help.
I'm from a small town, albeit one that's only about 30 miles or so from a couple of major cities. I really hate seeing the decline of small-town America. So, would I take up the offer and move to rural Kansas on the (very) cheap? Well...no. I like living near a major city. I kind of don't want to live in a small town again. And then there's the matter of jobs...and entertainment...and travel viability...and the difficulty of breaking into small-town culture...and...well, you can see why these folks in Kansas haven't been able to sell their homestead dream. I'm cheering for them--but I'm not going to join them, either.