By VERNON ROBISON
It has been an uphill climb over the past six years or so for Moapa Valley businesses. The real estate crash, recession, mortgage crisis, decline in tourism and extended period of high unemployment have taken a grave toll on this community. With all of that hard luck, it has been easy for local folks to resort to complaining amongst themselves; and perhaps rightfully so. But while the response of many has been to grumble and become discouraged, a few have taken these tough times as a call to action.
The Moapa Valley Revitalization Project (MVRP) will celebrate its first anniversary this month. This group got its start last January when Overton resident MaryKaye Washburn sent out a call from this Opinion page in a clear and simply worded Letter to the Editor. In that letter, she summed up the local misfortunes but did not wallow in them. Instead she expressed optimism that the volunteer efforts of regular people could help to turn the tide to a better future. She called for like-minded people to lend a hand in helping her make Moapa Valley better.
The MVRP has resulted. Over the year, this organization has grown to twenty some-odd people. These folks haven’t been elected to their posts. They weren’t given a popular mandate. They haven’t required expensive studies to be done or assessments to be made to tell them what to do. They haven’t expected a salary or a fee for their services. Rather, they have worked by simple means where they saw a need.
They have accomplished a great deal. Over the year, the MVRP has coordinated several projects that have helped to beautify the downtown commercial district. Trying to wean the Moapa Valley from a habit of spending their money elsewhere, the MVRP has become a vocal champion of local residents living and shopping locally. Finally, they have offered a willing and effective volunteer pool for major upcoming events like the Moapa Valley Days in March or the Valley of Fire Bicycle Stage Race in February.
In the wake of its efforts, the MVRP has left a renewed enthusiasm for the possibilities and potential still here in the Moapa Valley community; despite our recent hard times. In short the good volunteers of the MVRP have insisted and shown that there is still hope.
Of course, this doesn’t make the current realities any easier. The mission of the MVRP is still a very tall order. Indeed, this community has always seemed to show a strange immunity to past revitalization efforts. Despite numerous locally-hatched initiatives over the decades, the Overton business district has continued to lounge into a rather dilapidated and tired-looking spot. This problem has only magnified with the past five-year economic downturn.
Many who have been around the block before might shake their heads at the rose-colored idealism exhibited in this new organization tackling such old and formidable problems. But this hasn’t deterred the MVRP; nor should it. Though the resources are limited, the MVRP purpose remains clear and its cause is just. The group hasn’t had funding to renovate main street, but its members have been willing to roll up their sleeves and go to work. Rather than complain about the insurmountability of the local problems, they have simply led out in the steep climb; one small step at a time.
In doing so they have indeed made a difference, small though it may be. Little by little their vision has caught on to other community members and has grown into a modest movement.
Hopefully that enthusiasm and optimism will continue to spread among the local business owners into a more wide-spread, effective and organized effort to revitalize the community’s commercial district.