A mild climate, prime location, great college and quality cultural events pushed Pittsburg to the top of one researcher’s list of America’s best small cities.
Chuck Anderson has made his life’s work the compilation of a list of the top 100 small cities and has spent the past 50 years traveling, researching and learning about cities with populations between approximately 4,000 and 40,000 all over the country.
“You just kind of have the best blend of things,” he said about Pittsburg. “A big chunk of it comes down to having a nice place to live.”
Anderson noted that Pittsburg features relatively mild winters, sufficient winter sunshine and has a nice, green appearance.
“Pittsburg has a nice downtown, but it has more to do with your overall situation,” Anderson said, as he complimented the town and Pittsburg State University.
“Pittsburg combines a very attractive, well-kept city with a fine small university,” he wrote.
“PSU features a variety of cultural events and an athletic program that features champion caliber NCAA (Division Two) football in a very impressive stadium,” he continued. “I think it’s neat to have a great spirit and great team,” Anderson said.
Anderson has a degree in geography from Michigan State University and did his graduate studies at Kansas State University.
He developed his criteria with the initial idea that he could locate an “Eden” in which to raise his family, and the project eventually morphed into creating an opportunity for people to realize they live in an Eden.
He said he considered other names for the list, including “Paradise,” and “Camelot,” but Eden stuck.
Some of the Eden criteria include a generally prosperous, progressive community with an attractive and thriving main business district, an aesthetically pleasing place, a pleasant 12-month climate, its own identity, accessibility to jobs and entertainment, quality medical care, good schools and a college within easy commuting range, moderate cost of living, employment opportunities, entertainment and security of property and personal safety.
Page 2 of 3 - “It has to be big enough to have things that a town is supposed to have,” Anderson continued. “I like to have a town have its own identity.
Anderson then researched each city being considered for his list, and made decades worth of visits all over the United States before releasing his list.
“My Eden list was inspired by Norman Ford, who published a 50 Best Cities book in the early 50s. It was already outdated when I discovered it, but still helpful,” Anderson said. “As I traveled and pursued my geographic studies, it occurred to me that I could produce an up-to-date, and perhaps better, cities list.”
His list was noticed and requested by major publications as far back as 37 years ago, but he decided he wanted more time to travel and fine-tune his selections.
Anderson encountered tragedy along the way, when his house and book were destroyed in a propane gas explosion in 1989, which also injured him and killed his mother. It also took away his enthusiasm for his project.
But, Anderson continued to travel and update his personal list.
“It gave me an excuse to do what I like to do,” he said.
The longer he worked on the project, the more he became aware of the potential impact.
“I knew that what I was doing could affect people’s lives in a really big way,” he said, realizing that his decisions could inspire people to relocate or impact a community’s opinion of itself.
With those considerations, he said in his 50th year of travel and research he finally made tweaks and finishing touches.
“I finally had made the last trip I thought that I needed,” he said.
When Anderson released his list, Gettysburg, Pa. was named No. 1. Paola, Kan. is No. 20, Pittsburg, Kan. is No. 34, and Lindsborg, Kan. was one of 40 cities to be alphabetically listed as Nos. 61-100.
Page 3 of 3 - “It is more about making people in these towns feel better,” Anderson said of his end goal.
He also said he recently celebrated his 74th birthday and enjoyed the sense of accomplishment of publishing his life’s work.
“I feel that I’ve been blessed. It’s beyond what I expected, that’s for sure.”