Hundreds of visitors came to Bloomfield for Hairy Nation Days and walked around the square. They saw grass and weeds growing through the cracks in the sidewalks and gravel replacing a segment of sidewalk on the northwest corner of the square.
Crowds gathered on the square for the Rodeo Parade on July 4 and saw the same thing.
Next week, many visitors will be in Bloomfield or drive through the city as they attend the Davis County Fair. Unless quick action is taken, those visitors will also see unsightly weeds and an unkempt city.
On July 25, approximately 20,000 people will converge on Bloomfield as RAGBRAI® rolls into town. As those 20,000 depart Bloomfield and scatter on their homeward journey, what will they remember about our town? What will they tell their families and friends about our city? Will they have any desire to return? Would they want to move to a city that lacks pride in its appearance?
The writer of this editorial spent seven vacation days traveling throughout Iowa in early June. Not one city along that lengthy route had town square sidewalks resembling the walk in the above photo.
Two years ago, Bloomfield leaders and many residents were excited about the promise of an attractive downtown that would result from a streetscape project. Community pride peaked, and people had a desire to portray a positive image through a clean and attractive downtown.
When the streetscape project was squashed and ties with State of Iowa officials interested in developing Bloomfield were severed, community spirit and pride began to decline.
While a streetscape project will not happen in the near future, there is no reason why Bloomfield should not at least be neat and clean.
John Schroeder, Davis County Development Corporation Executive Director, compares the situation to words of advice his mother once gave him: “Your clothes should be clean even if they are patched.”
Schroeder has been witnessed applying weed killer to weeds and grass springing up through the sidewalk cracks along the north side of the square. He also picks up cigarette butts and trash along the street from his office to the northeast corner of the square. (Check it out. The north side of the square usually looks better than the rest of the town square.)
“I got in that habit when we had the Ford Garage,” he said. “I wanted my business to look good for my customers. It’s a point of personal pride.”
Schroeder said — and he’s right — if we want to develop this city and bring in new business, we must show that we care about and have pride in our downtown.
Whose responsibility is it to make the downtown attractive and welcoming? Everyone’s!
Older residents of Bloomfield recall merchants sweeping the sidewalks and picking up trash in front of their businesses every morning. It was their way of saying, “Come on in. I take pride in my business and welcome my customers to a shopping experience in a clean and friendly atmosphere.”
Merchants should be expected to keep sidewalks clean and remove grass and weeds in summer just as they are expected to keep them cleared of snow and ice in winter.
Residents and customers also have a responsibility to clean up after themselves by picking up their trash and cigarette butts.
When property owners and managers fail to keep sidewalks clean and free of obstruction, the city should find a way to make that happen.
Storefronts and windows need to be attractive and clean if Bloomfield wants to draw visitors to the downtown area. Attractive planters are also inviting to customers and display an attitude of community pride. (Several of Bloomfield’s merchants do a fantastic job with this!)
Residents in upper-story apartments must also do their part to make the downtown attractive. Ragged curtains in the windows of an upper-story apartment totally draw attention away from the beauty of a historic building. (Imagine the dismay of tourists who want to capture a photo of the historic downtown and find ragged curtains destroying the image!)
We have one week before the fair and two weeks before RAGBRAI® to clean up Bloomfield and make it presentable for visitors. Everyone needs to “put on the glasses of a tourist,” discover what needs to be done, and make an effort to improve our community’s appearance.
Let’s restore our personal and community pride!