Editor’s note: Keith Schnare of Logan offers some of his personal history and ideas in today’s edition of “My Way,” a new regular feature where readers share something about themselves and offer ideas about what they would do to improve Cache Valley and the world. To participate and learn the guidelines, contact managing editor Charles McCollum at cmccollum@hjnews.com.

My name is Jon Keith Schnare and I go by Keith or any name someone yells to get my attention.

I was born in Iowa and raised in a suburb of Chicago. My summers were spent on the family farm until I got into Scouts, Little League baseball, and the local swim team. The block I lived on was a post WWII development of small houses. There were about 100 kids on the long block so there were always enough kids for a pickup game of baseball or football. We also had open space of unused farmland to roam and explore. The Burlington railroad ran through town which allowed us to get into downtown Chicago in 30-45 minutes. Thus we had the closeness of large city activities while living semi-rural.

I came west for college and graduated from Oregon State University with a BS and later an MS in forest/civil engineering. My working career was in the USDA Forest Service, where I located and designed forest roads and trails, designed and did layout of timber sales for advanced logging systems of skyline, helicopter, balloon, and mechanical harvesting systems. I worked with loggers and commercial foresters to improve harvesting methods while maintaining and improving the forest environment. My career also included wildland firefighting, and I held the position of Situation Unit Leader (intelligence officer) on National Incident Command teams for 20 years.

Since our family mostly lived in small towns except for Boise, I was also a volunteer EMT and structural firefighter in each community. When we moved to Logan (my wife, Bonnie’s hometown) 33 years ago, there were no volunteer firefighter positions, and after retirement, I took the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) course and chaired the Logan city CERT council for 10 years.

For the last years of my USFS career, I was transferred from the National Forest to the State and Private Forest branch of the Forest Service. Here I worked with state forestry folks, non-commercial forest owners, and rural communities. The duties allowed me to pass on my knowledge of road location and design, and advanced logging systems to folks in rural communities.

One of my duties was to manage a small federal grant program for rural communities. This activity, even being small, was and still is very important to small communities. Here is where I learned a very important principle of community viability, the need for a community to have a meeting place. It may be a town hall, theater or ballpark, and it needs to include public bathrooms. The small grant program provided matching funds that helped rural communities to build or improve their meeting place.

One of the questions that the HJ is asking readers to answer is “What would you do as king of Logan to improve it?” Before I answer that question, let’s briefly review how Logan began as developed.

Logan began as a semi-fortified town with a single street and as a church-oriented community. As conditions allowed, the town expanded east and west for housing with most of the merchant business being along Main Street. Community activities were centered in the county courthouse and on the Tabernacle grounds. As Logan grew from a frontier town to a small city, city buildings were built and the merchants expanded along Main Street to the north and south, with the college and temple building on the east bench. This is still the configuration of the center portion of Logan.

The reality is that the population mix of Logan has significantly changed. We are now comprised of varied ethnic and religious groups. The meeting places of the past do not meet the modern needs.

So as king, I would clear off one complete city block or more in what is now called Town Center and build a meeting place. It would include a splash pad, playground, band shell, oval paved walking/jogging path, ground-level parking and parking garage, trees, public bathrooms, and a large grass area for cultural and civic events. This would allow for the Summerfest, bike races, musical and other in-the-park performances, dancing in the round, and drum circle,s to name a few uses.

During the day, children, parents, and grandparents would make use of the park. In the evening, planned and impromptu events would occur to draw young professionals and families downtown. As the park develops, shops and eateries would build on the edges. If planned correctly with bus parking, the park would draw the tour bus trade to the center of the city.

Depending on the winter weather, the oval path could be used for cross-country skiing and a portion of the park flooded for ice skating. If nothing else, a good snowball fight or two could occur.

I know that this is not reality, and yet the reality is that Logan does not have a “meeting place” available to all. I know that we have good city parks with some of the mentioned amenities, but they are not in the city center; they do not draw families to downtown; and they do not meet the definition of a city oriented meeting place. Logan may be the largest city in Cache Valley, but it is still built on the framework of a frontier town and cannot change without significant renovation of Town Center.

This leads to a second and practical solution of meeting places in neighborhoods which would strengthen each neighborhood. With city-provided upgrading to some of the city parks amenities, a number of smaller neighborhood oriented places to meet could be developed. It would not solve the problem of getting families to come to downtown businesses. It would promote small business enclaves around “meeting places” in neighborhoods and provide places for our expanding transient population to meet, mingle, and perhaps decide to stay.

As we think about meeting places and mingling with friends, relatives, and neighbors, I urge you to get to know your neighbors. Neighbors help neighbors, which makes anyplace a better place.

Sometimes bad things happen and we need to draw together and help each other. Recently citizens came upon an accident in Logan Canyon and helped rescue the Al-Imari family. This only happens because we are good neighbors. Logan is in an earthquake zone, and some day, as recently happened in Nevada and California, things start shaking. When, not if, the “earth quakes” in Logan, there will be more needs than first responders. It means that neighbors will need to help neighbors. We need to be prepared to help. Brush up on your first aid and CPR training. If you are willing and able, take the CERT training and be more prepared. Teach your family what to do when nature takes control, and practice so that all can react quickly to be safe.

Logan is a good city, and Cache Valley is special to many. To make this continue to be true, we need to be good neighbors.