Living in the Ozarks means a lot of things: A culture of hard work. The connection between Springfield and more rural towns. Tourists who come to see our beautiful scenery and explore our more concrete jungle.
Billings, Missouri, is a small town about 20 minutes southwest of Springfield. You may have heard about their new mural.
I had the honor to student teach in Billings in 2017, and it was an amazing town. The people embraced me. The school truly wanted what was best for each student.
Unfortunately, one thing Billings was lacking was a plan for tourism. With an abundance of small town charm, they needed something to draw people in.
That’s where geology, geography and planning entered.
Dr. Krista Evans and Linnea Ianntrea, senior instructor of planning, teach classes that let students create a vision and tourism plan for cities.
This isn’t just a simulation; Billings asked to be considered for this project through the Southwest Missouri Council of Governments.
Suggestions for Billings
“A visioning plan helps a community determine its path and set goals so that they can get there,” said Evans, assistant professor of planning.
One thing that stood out during the event was Billings’ desire to keep their own charm rather than be labelled a community outside of Springfield.
Students encouraged Billings to keep the small town feel and improve their downtown area. They also recommended more affordable housing options.
Another thought was to embrace the German and Swiss heritage with events. Ideas included a spring beer fest and a German-Swiss themed 5k.
By the time students presented their findings, a mural created by a Billings native detailing Billings history was near completion. Ironically, the class recommended branding the town in a similar way.
“Students did several community input activities that allowed them to interact with residents and understand the various strengths and weaknesses facing Billings,” Evans said. “All students had the opportunity to present their findings to the public one evening at Billings City Hall.”
Each student was awarded a certificate of gratitude by the mayor of Billings, David Rauch.