Yorkers love to bristle at positive recognition
There's nothing quite like a subjective list of "charming" places to get people talking.
In the Internet's latest round of click-bait presented in Top-10 format, York made the cut — included among places such as Lititz and Ligonier as the state's "Most Heart-Warmingly Beautiful Small Towns."
Predictably, Yorkers began spreading the link across social media. And the self-depricating comments soon followed.
The comments section on the Only In Your State website betrays Yorkers' long history of seeing greener grass on all other sides.
"Beauty and charm are in the eyes of the beholder," wrote one person claiming to be a lifelong resident of York County. "I can show you a few small charming towns, but York proper is neither small or charming."
That kind of attitude drives Blanda Nace crazy. The vice president of community affairs for the York County Economic Alliance said he believes York has a self-esteem problem.
"It's embarrassing because we don't have any pride," Nace said.
In good company: Nace arrived in York a decade ago. A native of Carlisle, Nace said he had not expected the place he found.
"When I came down here I was blown away by how beautiful and welcoming York City was. I was welcomed with open arms and invited to get involved and met some of the most wonderful people," Nace said. "And yet we still continue to put ourselves down."
Perhaps this latest Top-10 list means outsiders are seeing something York residents are just too close to see.
"Looking at the towns that are included here, it's fantastic for us to be included in that company," said Meagan Feeser, marketing director for Downtown Inc. "We are seeing this recognition pop up a little bit more frequently."
Feeser cited York's recent inclusion on a nationwide list of the best rail trails. The nonprofit Rails-to-Trails Conservancy recognized the York County Heritage Rail Trail as No. 1, noting its connection to Abraham Lincoln.
In March, USA Today included York's St. Patrick's Day Parade in its round-up of ways to celebrate the holiday.
"People are starting to take notice and starting to see some of the things that are happening here," Feeser said.
But don't get the impression that Downtown Inc staffers are plastering their office refrigerator with printed copies of Top 10 lists.
There's a lot of work that remains to change the perception some hold of York as a crime-riddled town past its prime.
Changing suburban minds: Downtown Inc is working deliberately to change the minds of people who live in York County but who avoid the city. A new guide to downtown York will be distributed county-wide, Feeser said.
"They are a big part of our target audience, to try to help change that perception," she said.
As for the crime issue, Feeser said city police officers are actively involved in downtown revitalization efforts, meeting regularly with merchants and providing visible security at downtown events.
Recently, at one of those meetings, a downtown cop reported the area's biggest crime issue is currently the theft of flowers from outdoor planters.
"If that's our biggest problem right now, we're doing something OK," Feeser said.
Nace said he thinks it's time for York County's suburban residents to get on board with York City's revitalization. It's having real economic-development effects, he said.
"There are companies who want to be downtown because they like the vibe or they like the excitement. They like that urban feel, and they like the walkability," Nace said. "Cities will always evolve and ebb and flow through good times and bad. But they are our core communities."
And, besides, it's just kind of silly for suburban Yorkers to keep picking on the city, said Nace, who noted he lives in a cabin on a two-acre property with a stream and a pond.
"But I'm not bashing Red Lion because they have red lights," he said.