I've been wanting to write this blog the last 2 months and I've finally got down to it. Back in September, Money Magazine rated the town I live in, Glen Carbon, Illinois, one of the 'Top 100 Best Places to Live in America'. It was ranked #93. Sure, it was low, but it beat out tens of thousands of villages, towns and cities, so I'm still patting it on the back :).
I have been thinking about why it made the list. I'm not arguing, but I kind of wonder what makes the village perfect, in a way. Actually not perfect, even though we have a couple bad areas. Sources say we are the fastest growing Metro East community in the outside St. Louis area. That's a huge compliment, if you compare us with Waterloo, St. Clair and Madison county towns. And with Edwardsville just next door, its a perfect team. Edwardsville itself is growing, in huge part because of SIUE and we've turned ourselves into Fairview Heights. If only we don't go the same road as Fairview, meaning turning ourselves into a ghetto area despite having numerous places to shop. I remember the population of Glen Carbon being only 5,200 and now its tripled its size in the last few years.
There are a number of reasons that I believe have helped contribute our reputation.
--One, we are open to religion. I'm not religious, but I think its a good thing to help spiritualize the community. In most areas as you're entering Glen Carbon, you'll find signs that say 'Glen Carbon welcomes you....attend the church of your choice'. There are lots of churches in GC.
--Two, we are very senior-friendly. When I was interning at the city of Florissant a couple years back, the StL suburb was very reputable in having dozens of activities available to people of all ages, buit mostly seniors. You always gotta make them feel welcome everywhere you go. GC has a lot of retirement homes and centers plus they do their part in preserving GC's rich heritage, which I'll get into at the end.
--Three, education. Glen Carbon is part of Edwardsville's District 7, which is a huge plus. Under the leadership of Dr. Ed Hightower, the district has vastly expanded, with several schools in all the small parts. Like him or not, he continues to make education a huge priority in central Madison County. District 7 has been named one of the top 100 school districts in 2 publications. We have 2 middle schools and an enormous high school (opened in '97). If socialized schools aren't for you, there's several private schools in the area to serve people as well.
--Four, we offer several things to do during the day. We have several parks and did I mention....bike trails? Glen Carbon takes claims as one of the first few towns to adapt bike trails from old railroads. Miner's Park is always a great getaway for kids, as well as the parks behind City Hall and the old Fire Station. Several jogging and bike trails are paved around GC and Edwardsville. They always say that a place without parks or outdoor 'hangout' areas, its a bad area.
Again, I'm not saying Glen Carbon is perfect. We've been through our share of struggles. Remember all the TIFs? And not a lot of people are comfortable with the growth. We also almost got a Super Walmart. But thanks to a lot of voices against it, the company decided not to put it there. We will be the only place in Madison County that doesn't have a Super Wally. (Granite City and Godfrey will soon get one, while Wood River, Highland and Collinsville have one) Glen Carbon is trying to look old-fashioned, which is alright by most means. History always comes into play. Whenever people tell me there is no difference between Edwardsville and Glen Carbon, I always bring up the mining history of Glen Carbon that helped develop the village. Edwardsville itself has a rich history, being the home of three past Illinois governors, including its namesake, Ninian Edwards.
So here's to Glen Carbon!