This editorial appeared in the Kearney Hub.
Given the positive developments of the past several months, it is almost difficult to believe that for 12 long years, the Great Platte River Road Archway was choking as a business, unable to market itself, make needed repairs or near the end of its long ordeal to repay the vendors with whom it was doing business.
So many good things have happened since the archway filed for bankruptcy this year.
On July 1, the attraction was the venue for the national centennial of the Lincoln Highway, an event that made USA Today’s top-five list of U.S. events in 2013.
In June, the Nebraska Department of Tourism opened a visitors center inside the archway, and in September, the Nebraska Department of Roads opened an interchange on Interstate 80 just one mile east of the archway.
In October, supporters from Nebraska, and a few from Colorado, pledged $140,000 to help the archway settle its debts as it came out of bankruptcy.
On Nov. 15, the archway foundation repaid the final debt, and ownership of the structure and campus transferred to the foundation.
The archway now is debt-free and owned by a community organization, and the accessibility problems that plagued the site have been resolved. Perhaps most importantly, the archway now can breathe more freely, having cast off the chains of outside ownership. The place can now be managed locally, and supporters can be assured their money goes to the archway, not to dozens of unnamed bondholders.
The archway is slowly distancing itself from the difficulties of its past, while maintaining the positive attributes that make it a community asset worth fighting for.
The archway still is a conversation starter among travel writers and has become one of Nebraska’s most recognizable landmarks. It has hosted visitors from many foreign countries and all 50 states, including tribes of Native Americans whose homelands stretched out along the Platte River valley. Notably, the archway has awakened visitors to an amazing chapter in the growth of our nation and has fostered pride among the Native Americans who have staged powwows at the archway.
Each of these events represents major hurdles to viability that no longer exist. Today, tremendous opportunities present themselves, but it will require a commitment of talent, inspiration and resources to fully transform the archway into a fantastic community asset.
A number of organizations have already expressed a commitment to the archway’s success: the Arch Forward Committee, Kearney Visitors Bureau and Kearney City Council. The Buffalo County Board today will have its opportunity to join the partnership to create a stronger, more self-sustaining archway.