A grassroots organization instrumental in the greening of Greensburg, after the 2007 tornado wiped out virtually the whole town, is coming to an end.
GreenTown, a non-profit group that worked with the city and other organizations to bring wind power and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified buildings to town, is dissolving.
“It’s sad that we’re losing this particular business because they certainly were a valuable asset to the community and could’ve continued to be so,” said Erica Goodman, who runs Where ‘dya Find That Antiques in Greensburg with her husband, Gary.
The 501-c-3 group was born out of the wreckage of the tornado.
People said, “Here’s a chance. We have a clean slate. How can we attract people here?” said Daniel Wallach, executive director of Green Town.
The Silo House, an eco home, named for the town silo that survived the tornado, has served as a bed and breakfast and attracted visitors from as far away as Japan, Italy and Moldavia. But now the house is on the market to sell.
Across the street, the unfinished Meadowlark House is to be sold in an auction at 11 a.m. Nov. 12. To many the structure is a blight, but it was intended to be another innovative eco home. A foundation funded the first two phases in building the house, but internal problems caused the foundation to fall apart and the third and final building phase was never started, GreenTown Director Daniel Wallach said.
“Meadowlark was living or dying by the strength of the green initiative in Greensburg,” said Green Town member Rose Ann Wedel. “It lost steam.”
With so many accomplishments, Wallach’s biggest dream not to come true was his plan to build 12 eco homes that would serve as bed and breakfasts and create an eco-tourism industry, a “living laboratory” in Greensburg.
GreenTown has not had the funds to do a lot of advertising and self-marketing, and it is hard to find grants that support sustainable communities, said Wedel.
“It just hasn’t worked,” Wedel said. “It’s time to move on.”
A lot of people visiting Greensburg have seen the sustainable buildings and said “you were only able to get this because you got all that federal money. That’s true, but there was a lot of local support as well.
“That’s where Green Town really suffered. How far can you stretch a community dollar? It’s hard to spread that support in a small community. It has to come to an end.”
Wallach said Green Town had lots of support from city council and former City Administrator Steve Hewitt in its first two years, but does not have that kind of support from the current city council.
“We never felt support from them on any of the issues we tried to move forward,” said Wallach. “A lot of leaders claim Greensburg is green. Their actions don’t bear that.”
Greensburg Mayor Bob Dixson had no comment on the differences between GreenTown and the city, but said, “The city has always been committed to sustainability and the green initiative and we continue to be committed to promoting it.”
Wedel also did not comment on friction between the city and GreenTown. She did describe herself as “really sad” about Green Town closing.
“But sometimes you have to face facts,” she said. “You can dwell on mistakes or you can dwell on the good things.”
A lot of good things came out of the green initiative, Wedel said. She recalled a company donating 400 dual flush toilets to the city in 2007. The toilets, which use less water, were not as common then.
“Now if you go go Lowes, that’s all you’re going to find,” she said.
Wallach said, “Greensburg was re-imagined as a town for the future. That is why people came to town to see it.”
Until the Silo House sells, it is still available for use as a bed and breakfast. People can still take free tours of the house. A group of people from Tajikistan visiting family in the area will tour the house this weekend, Wedel said.
Although GreenTown is ending, Wallach said, “I just want to emphasize there’s still life in the green initiative and I hope the community leadership will recognize that and treat it as a valuable asset because hundreds of people have given their time and energy to making Greensburg a model sustainable community.”
Greensburg City Administrator Kyler Ludwig said, “Even with the Green Town organization closing its doors, the city of Greensburg is still committed to the ideas of sustainability, and building a community for future generations.”
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