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Shrinking Cities Part Two: West Mineral, Kansas - KOAM TV 7

Shrinking Cities Part Two: West Mineral, Kansas

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Donna Poor says West Mineral is peaceful.

"I like the area. It's kind of secluded. It's not in a busy town. I don't mind having to go one a week to the grocery store."

She and her husband moved to the town 20 years ago while others were leaving.

"I've just noticed that a lot of people have moved because of jobs, seeking for more work. And then a lot of the homes that got vacant, they just started deteriorating."

The University of Kansas Institute of Policy and Social Research reports the population of West Mineral has gone from 349 residents in 1950, to 229 in 1980, down to 185 in 2010. It is estimated 176 residents lived in West Mineral in 2013.

"Small towns are disappearing," said Dr. Kris Lawson, Assistant Professor, History of American Women, Health and Healthcare at Pittsburg State University And in order to understand why they are disappearing, you need to know why they Are there in the first place."

Here it was coal mining. The P&M Mining company operated a large site in west mineral for almost two decades, until the company stopped the local operation in the mid 1970's due to contractional and environmental reasons. This caused people to move elsewhere for work.

"To me you feel bad because it had to shut down, but in reality, we know it happens to all these older towns, just like the Gold Rush."

For those who remain, a recent project has brought a sense of life to the town.

"I'm really proud that we just finished a new fire station. And we take are of all the surrounding areas."

"That was wonderful because it's all volunteers. All the community members have pitched in and helped either build the station or if we where not there, we provided the food for them. It was just, everybody got together and worked together."

That station hosts city meetings and elections. It also carries something that makes west mineral needed.  

"We have a rescue truck. And what that is, if someone where to have a car wreck or heart attack, we're the first responders to get there."

The new building gives residents a sense of pride.  

But there are other reasons some choose to live in West Mineral.

"Most of our residents are retired and they've lived here a long time. We do have some who have moved back here, because it's cheaper to live here, it's cheaper to buy a home here."

But even some do stay for the cheaper rent, west mineral's population will likely continue to decline without another vital industry.  

"West Mineral may have all the passion in the world for West Mineral," said Dr. Conrad Gubera, professor of sociology and international studies at MSSU. "And that may be their world. There's nothing wrong with that. But if their kids aren't buying into it, or their grandkids, what's the future of west mineral?"

"It's difficult to live in a small town," said Dr. Lawson. "We all, american love the idea of a small town. We say small town america, we think andy griffith and Mayberry and wouldn't it be wonderful to live in that kind of environment, but that's fiction. Everybody has expectations of life, what they want, and small towns have problems meeting those expectations."

"You wish there could be a little village that would come to life. That there would be something here to hold them here," said Poor.


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