‘Smart Growth’ workshop was held on May 2-3

Staff Writer
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

A grant received by the Osage Nation recently funded a local Smart Growth America workshop for civic and business leaders from Pawhuska and Osage County.

Designed to provide technical assistance for achieving optimum growth benefits, the workshop was delivered by a national organization that is “dedicated to researching, advocating for and leading coalitions to bring smart-growth practices” to U.S. communities, according to SGA officials.

The ON grant was one of just six approved nationwide through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Sustainable Communities.

“From providing more sidewalks to ensuring that productive farms remain a part of our communities, smart growth helps make sure people across the nation can live in great neighborhoods,” SGA officials said.

Smart Growth workshops focus on revitalization and economic development based on principles which include sustainability as a primary consideration.

“SGA strategies help towns and cities across the country to grow stronger economically by using land strategically, making the most of existing resources and using public funds to catalyze private development,” the officials added.

The local workshop was a collaborative effort of Osage Nation, City of Pawhuska, Osage County, Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce and Osage County Tourism, as well as area businesses and residents. It was held May 2-3.

Following its half-day tour of the community, the SGA team offered a public presentation Tuesday evening at the Constantine Theater. The participants in Wednesday’s invitation-only Stakeholder Workshop at the Pawhuska Business Development Center were guided through a series of planning discussions by SGA members.

Representatives from several federal and state entities attended the workshop to explain programs that are available for economic development, job creation/training and other services.

Smart Growth America will be using what was discussed at the workshop to create a “Next Steps Memo” — an outline of SGA strategies that could be implemented locally. By familiarizing local leaders with SGA principles, the organization hopes to help build sustainable, affordable, accessible and healthy growth for the community, with a strong base of business.

Each workshop draws on the group’s expertise to provide actionable steps which a community can use to overcome the barriers to smart growth and build stronger economies now and for generations to come, SGA officials said.

The Osage Nation applied for the grant after learning about SGA during an economic development conference. The ON application described many of the area’s current needs while highlighting aspects that make Pawhuska a special place — such as its historical downtown buildings, and tribal/western influences. Old photographs and films helped reinforce the importance and vitality of the Osage capital in earlier times.

ON officials also pointed out that, since Food Network star Ree Drummond’s Mercantile opened last October, downtown Pawhuska has reemerged as a very popular place to be, with thousands of visitors from around the country coming to town to shop and eat.

Many people have been working to renovate the area, but a lack of certain essential services and infrastructure deficiencies (i.e. public transportation, parking, pedestrian areas, broadband access, etc.) are inhibiting progress, the officials added.

“Although the increased traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian, has made the shortcomings of the infrastructure in downtown apparent, it has also shown what Pawhuska can accomplish when given an opportunity,” the application noted. “This is especially true when the entire community works together.”

The Osage Nation has multiple projects in process that will have a significant impact on the downtown area, and the City of Pawhuska, in conjunction with Osage Nation, recently received a grant to improve traffic flow and pedestrian areas in downtown as well, the application said.

SGA’s workshop should have helped identify the areas of concern and will ultimately assist the local stakeholder community in developing plans to improve these conditions, the ON officials added.

For additional information on smart-growth principles, visit the SGA website: www.smartgrowthamerica.org