all started when businesses began to shutter about a decade ago in
Tampa, population 112, according to the 2010 census. The grocery closed.
The government shut down the post office after officials discovered a
mold issue. Meanwhile, the Wichita Diocese closed the Catholic Church,
except for the use of weddings and funerals.
"Tampa's future looked bleak," she said of her Marion County town.
isn't unlike many other towns across Kansas where population has waned
for decades. The rural community also had other challenges -- it is 30
minutes from the nearest town of more than 1,000 and, at least, an
hour's drive to a city of more than 10,000.
However, there is a group of residents here who weren't about to see Tampa disappear.
already has several things going for it. They are the home base for the
area grain cooperative. There is an oil company, a bank, a daycare and a
cafe. In 2003, Spohn and others started the Tampa Community
Association, which has evolved into Tampa PRIDE.
down the old buildings and planting grass wasn't an option, according
to local farmer David Mueller. He worked to purchase many of the
dilapidated structures and began repairing them.
That included the
old post office, which he is rebuilding after the roof in the 1920s-era
structure nearly collapsed from years of neglect. The plans for the
four-section building include a convenience store, a beauty/barbershop, a
conference meeting room, as well as space for a future business.
He could have the building ready by this spring.
old buildings also on the list for sprucing include the 1901 bank
building that now houses the cafe, as well as the former American Legion
"My goal is to save the character of downtown Tampa and
provide opportunities for young people in the community," Mueller said.
"In the past 30 years there has not been a usable space available. My interest is not in running the businesses themselves, but providing the space."
are just a few of several projects, Spohn said. The PRIDE group
received a $2,500 Monsanto grant to renovate the community center/senior
center. They also received a $64,126 Small Communities Improvement
Program grant through the Kansas Department of Commerce last year, which
the community used to build a park.
Residents also have had
several fundraisers, including a Christmas home tour and soup supper in
2011, along with pancake feeds and softball tournaments.
"People are excited," Spohn said. "They're excited about Main Street changing."
folk also are injecting entertainment back into the town, said Carla
Hajek, president of the PRIDE group. The community also plays movies on
occasion on the fire station wall. Meanwhile, community members are
preparing for the town's 125th anniversary in August.
"It's all coming together," Hajek said.
town already is attracting youth. Mueller notes there are 80 children
with a six-mile area of Tampa. And Hajek said even her three children --
all in their late teens and early 20s -- are staying in the area. Her
two sons will farm with her husband.
"I think people want to be by their families," she said. "And farming is pretty good right now. Kids are coming back.". Her column runs monthly.
Amy Bickel is an agricultural journalist at The Hutchinson News