Adams Growth Matched by Sense of Community
7 May 2021
Small towns across America are experiencing the dilemma of reversing population decline without losing their historical traditions and values. Adams in Nebraska, a town of approximately 600 finds itself in an opposite situation.
“The growth we’re experiencing is making it more difficult to know everyone,” said Erin Dorn, an Adams resident. “Those of us who have lived here all or most of our lives joke that there are so many kids in school, we no longer know everyone’s name!”
Adams is experiencing recent growth as part of the national trend of people moving out of urban centers to more rural settings. But the village has embraced the trend, seizing the opportunity to drive community activity to keep that tradition and small-town values vibrant and alive.
Small, But Growing
Adams is located in Gage County, in southeast Nebraska, about a 35-minute drive south of Lincoln. The 2010 U.S. Census data indicated a population of 573, with the 2019 estimate of 617. Signs of growth pervade all aspects of daily life, especially over the last two years. The local high school, Freeman Public Schools, has recently gone up a classification for athletics. Homes on the market sell quickly, with sellers obtaining excellent sale prices. Adams has deep roots as a farm town, drawing back young adults and their families who grew up in the area. But others are becoming aware of what Adams has to offer, said Dorn.
“The housing market has been unreal, especially once COVID-19 hit,” she said. “People are realizing our ideal location, as a town filled with all the resources a family needs. And if they need something that isn’t available in town, Beatrice and Lincoln are a short drive away.”
Focus on Betterment
That small-town history has led to extremely active residents proactively seeking the continuous betterment of their community. One example is the Adams Community Foundation (ACF), of which Dorn is a co-chair. ACF, along with the Village Board, began the Growing Adams Park (GAP) Project in 2019 to improve and renovate the Adams Village Park. The GAP Project Master Park Plan focuses on safety, upgrades and new construction over five phases. The first phase includes new construction of bathrooms, concession stand, and ADA accessibility to the ballfields. Future phases will focus around addressing water drainage concerns, creating established parking, adding a third regulation-sized ballfield to allow for tournaments and boosting community, as well as walking trails to improve the overall health and wellness of the community. With the help of Southeast Nebraska Development District (SENDD), the GAP Project qualified and received a Civic & Community Center Financing Fund (CCCFF) grant from the State of Nebraska in the amount of $198,328. A requirement to the grant, however, was to raise matching funds, which the GAP Project helped achieve by many generous donations from local community members. Along with a 2020 Land & Water Conservation Grant from the Nebraska Game & Parks, that again matched the previous funds raised, the GAP Project has raised a total of $793,312 for the project so far.
“For a town of around 600 people, that is simply amazing,” said Dorn.
Another recent project was raising funds for a new ambulance for the Adams Volunteer Rescue Squad. The cost of the actual build of the new vehicle is around $320,000, but fully stocked will cost upwards of $500,000. Adams has a Primary Care clinic in town through the Johnson County Hospital in Tecumseh, and Beatrice Community Hospital close by serving Gage County as well.
“The emergency services the ambulance will provide are critical for a small community,” said Dorn. “People always hope there is never a need to call 911, but having a reliable Rescue Squad and Fire Department in rural Nebraska is an absolute blessing to know the help you need is close by if an emergency occurs.”
The bustling activity of Adams goes far beyond fundraising efforts. Main Street downtown is lined with every conceivable business needed for daily life. Notable businesses include the Adams State Bank, which has been led by the Gramann family for generations, and Adams Repair, a thriving auto repair shop, whose owners plan to open The Bluebird Boutique nearby soon. Larger businesses, like E Energy Adams, an ethanol plant, provide jobs for residents as well.
“People have put so much into Adams, developing support required for a strong community,” said Dorn. “Yes, there is the bank and repair shop, but that extends to the doctor, dentist, hardware store, photographer, cafe, grocery store and more.”
Residents enjoy their leisure time, with many community celebrations, from Trivia Night in May, Fourth of July festivities, Community Days in August, Tree Lighting Celebration to kick off the Holidays, and a Holiday Light Competition, where neighborhoods wage a friendly contest to see whose can display more Christmas spirit.
The community cares about all of its citizens, including on both ends of the age spectrum. The school district offers a centerpiece for the area, helping to gather new comers and lifelong residents together through sports and other activities. The Goldcrest Retirement Center provides many services to the community for all ages with daycare for children, townhome retirement living, assisted living, skilled care and memory care.
“It is amazing how well that facility has continued to grow,” said Dorn. “The newer townhomes are popular for those who may not be quite ready for the complete senior living yet.”
As a lifelong resident of the area, Dorn said it is wonderful to see the growth her community is experiencing.
“From past high school friends moving back to the area, to those completely new, the energy and activity they bring is exhilarating,” she said. “So many people have given so much to build up our community, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, that we are all excited for the future of Adams!”