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Losing Ground To Urban Sprawl

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Published on: Sep. 2, 2001

Last revision: Nov. 9, 2010

Do you ever think about the incredible changes that have taken place within the last century? In the early 1900s, we didn't have cars, airplanes, television, spacecraft, computers or the Internet. Most homes were modest, roads were better suited for horses than "horsepower," and the majority of the population-only about 1/4 of the number we have in the country today-lived in rural areas.

It would be hard to argue that the changes haven't been good for us. People live longer and are healthier. Despite the larger population, we have, on average, more living space. Certainly, we have much more opportunity for education, personal enrichment and entertainment than ever before. We also work fewer hours and receive more pay. Machines now perform our most laborious tasks.

Good things always come at a cost, however. Some would argue that the price of our technological revolution has been a weakening of family and community ties, a loss of spirituality and a dilution of our moral standards. Nature, too, has had to bear part of the cost, and its share of the bill seems to be getting larger all the time.

As recently as 20 years ago, you may have been growing up on a family farm or living on a nice, 60-acre tract on a quiet county road. Deer, turkey, quail, and songbirds were just some of the abundant wildlife you would see each day.

Today, our countryside is changing. People seeking the same idyllic lifestyle try to buy a little piece of it when a local farmer sells off his property piece by piece. Soon, there is a house on every tract of 10 acres or less. These new rural dwellers are generally nice people, but put them all on the road together, especially in the mornings and evenings as they travel to and from work, and the quiet countryside becomes crowded and hectic.

The dispersion of city dwellers to nearby rural areas is commonly called urban sprawl, but it's not just occurring near the cities. It is also taking place in many "rural" counties, too.

Sprawl can be a gradual process. You don't notice it until you compare the past with the present. How many more houses, people, and cars are now present where there was a forest or an open field of prairie grasses just five or 10 years ago?

By 1998, 36 percent of Missouri's population lived outside city limits, while 64 percent lived in cities. Between

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