Wood River seeking young families to grow population

WOOD RIVER, Neb. (AP) — From housing development to construction on a new water park equipped with slides and a lazy river, the city of Wood River is working to grow its community.

Wood River, on U.S. Highway 30 between Kearney and Grand Island, is the perfect home for young families commuting to and from work in either of the central Nebraska cities, according to Sara Arnett, a member of Wood River’s Vision 20/20 Committee.

“You know it’s just a great midpoint for that,” she told the Kearney Hub . “It’s really the best of both worlds — close enough to whatever you need but you don’t have to deal with some of the huge schools.”

To attract young families and make it a better place for current residents to live, the city’s Vision 20/20 Committee started planning in 2012 to grow and improve Wood River, population 1,350.

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“We basically were doing town hall meetings just to bring all of the organizations to the table and leaders from all of the facets of the community, and try to do some long-term planning — ‘Where are we now? Where do we need to be?’ — And that all sort of evolved into Vision 20/20,” Arnett said.

Wood River Mayor Greg Cramer said the city conducted a door-to-door survey to assess needs such as affordable day care to housing.

“It kind of set the direction we needed to work on,” he said.

The result has been a new community center and city hall, added amenities at Wood River parks, a dilapidated house demolished and the city received an Owner Occupied grant for $325,000 from the Department of Economic Development. The grant has helped low- to moderate-income homeowners to make energy efficiency, safety and accessibility improvements to their homes, Arnett said.

As mayor for the last 10 years, Cramer has also been successful at annexing land on the north edge of town. Construction on a new water park is in process on…

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