Between the Lines by David Lias Spring has arrived, and Easter is just around the corner.
But, in typical South Dakota fashion, we�re currently experiencing weather colder than most of the winter that just ended.
It doesn�t seem like a season of new life and renewal is upon us.
It would be easy to focus on the negative right now. South Dakota, like practically every other state in the union, has watched its economy suffer due to a slowdown in national economic activity and the effects of last September�s terrorism.
That may, in part, explain why there still hasn�t been a strong regrowth of retail businesses in Vermillion�s downtown.
What little snow we�ve experienced this winter is all but gone, revealing portions of the city in their true light � eyesores. The blight especially seems to be concentrated near an area one would expect to reflect some bit of economic and civic pride, namely The University of South Dakota campus.
Some of the student rental housing units in residential areas near USD are little more than shacks, with peeling paint, broken windows and yards full of junk.
Let�s take a moment, however, to accentuate the positive. In our haste to identify all that is wrong around us, we sometimes fail to take time to note the positive things that have or are about to happen.
Let�s focus on the area surrounding Vermillion, and work our way toward the city limits.
? The dreams and efforts of the Newcastle/Vermillion Bridge Corporation have been turned into reality. Work was completed last year on the Missouri River bridge that links Vermillion with Newcastle, NE. It is helping to bring more people to Vermillion to seek medical services, shopping, and education at The University of South Dakota.
? All of the land was purchased last year from local landowners to preserve the historically significant Spirit Mound site near Vermillion. Nearly $600,000 in federal funds were secured by Sen. Tim Johnson thrree years ago so that the Department of Interior and South Dakota Parks and Recreation could purchase the 320-acre site. The purchase of Spirit Mound allowed work to begin last year to restore it to its original condition, including native grasses and flowers. When the work is complete, the mound will appear much as is did when Meriwether Lewis and William Clark visited the site in 1804.
This restoration couldn�t have come at a better time, as Vermillion and other communities along the Corps of Discovery route prepare to greet visitors in the next few years who will be retracing the explorers� route.
? Work is progressing on the Lewis and Clark Rural Water System. Test wells were drilled last year near the Missouri River by Clay County Park. When complete, the system and its pipeline network will serve Sioux Falls and 21 other towns and rural water systems in South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa.
? There no longer are giant cranes casting large shadows over the roof of the DakotaDome on the USD campus. Crews completed the daunting task of replacing the structure�s fabric roof with a new $11 million rigid insulated steel roof.
? A couple blocks south of the Dome on Dakota Street, another construction firm was busy last year building Vermillion�s new $1.2 million fire/ambulance safety station. The William J. Radigan Fire/EMS station was dedicated at an open house last fall attended by hundreds of Vermillion citizens.
? Construction crews wrapped up their work on the new addition to Vermillion High School, made possible by public approval of a $3.2 million bond issue two years ago and over $2 million in capital outlay certificates. The high school now features a new 750-seat auditorium, a new commons/dining facility that seats 300 people, a new kitchen, a new auxiliary gymnasium and an expanded library.
We have no reason to hang our heads here, because more positive things are on the horizon for Vermillion.
Improvements to the USD campus will be coming shortly, with plans for a new business school building, a new medical school building, and a revamping of the public television building and other university structures.
The city continues its Bluffs housing project, while Dave Hertz has undertaken a sizeable housing development of his own near the golf course.
And as far as the blight in Vermillion that we mentioned earlier � after April 6, there will be less of it in the city thanks to Operation Pride which will collect junk throughout a portion of the community. Vermillion Beautiful, Inc. will soon spruce up the city�s downtown and Cherry Street with a flower planting project.
It�s time to be positive. A season of new life and renewal is, indeed, upon us.