Gretna growing at rapid pace
June 30th, 2011
Lincoln, NE – What happens to a community when its population doubles in 10 years? That’s the case in Gretna, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. NET News’ Mike Tobias visited Gretna to find out the pros and cons of being Nebraska’s fastest growing community.
Something that’s easy to find in this Sarpy County community on the perimeter of the Omaha metro area is construction. In 2000, Gretna’s population was 2,355. The 2010 census counted Gretna’s population at more than 4,400, and that’s been recently revised to more than 4,800. More than 100 percent growth in a decade.
“That is just unprecedented to have that type of an increase. Frankly, I’m unaware of any increase like that in the last 30 years that has been that dramatic,” said the executive director of the League of Nebraska Municipalities, Lynn Rex.
Gretna was one of nine Nebraska communities that experienced more than 30 percent growth in the last decade, according to the latest U.S. Census. Most are close to either Omaha or Lincoln. Location played a big part in Gretna’s growth, according to Mayor Sally McGuire.
“We’re in the middle between Lincoln and Omaha,” she said. “A lot of our families have one parent that goes to Lincoln to go to work and one that goes to Omaha to go to work. I think a lot of it was because of the good schools. You know, we always hear when someone moves to Gretna, why do you want to move to Gretna? Because of the school district.”
McGuire said, “We’re close to the Interstate and we have good access. All of those things led to, I think, to the growth that we’ve had.”
McGuire said it also helped that a decade ago the city replaced an outdated sewer treatment plant with a new sewer line between Gretna and Omaha. This spurred housing developments that would eventually become part of Gretna. McGuire has seen all this growth from the perspective of a city official: city council, planning commission and library board before the mayor’s office.
“Well, there’s challenges with growth, of course, but then there’s so much positive. One challenge is meeting the needs of young families.” said McGuire.
“Growth is a challenge for space for our children,” she said. “Right now, we only have five or so football or baseball and softball parks or fields for the kids to practice on and to play on, and so they play late into the night.”
In addition, Gretna’s 50-year-old city pool has turned kids away most summer days because it’s too small. A new pool is on Gretna’s wish list, and the city bought and is developing 160 acres of land for new sports fields. The school-age population is growing so quickly that last fall residents passed a $35 million bond issue to build a fourth elementary school and acquire land for a second high school, after opening two other elementary schools in the last eight years.
There are other needs. Construction of a two million gallon water tower is underway, part of Gretna’s ambitious strategic plan developed last year. Among other identified needs are a new city hall, library and community center; expanded sewer and water infrastructure and an industrial park.
“The City Council, the city staff, everyone got together and kind of made a priority of what needed to come first and how we methodically work through this list that absolutely is worth millions and millions and millions of dollars and how we were gonna accomplish that,” said McGuire.
In 10 years, there may be another place tagged as “Nebraska’s fastest growing community.” With room to expand, it’s likely that Gretna will still be growing.
Mayor Sally McGuire said, “We have a lot of developments right now that are… still vacant. There’s space for additional developments. It will continue to grow. I just don’t think at the pace that we did in the… past ten years.”