MORAN, located at the intersection of US 54 and US 59 east of Iola, is the educational, shopping and social hub for Eastern Allen County. Going to Moran means “going to town” for the surrounding rural area and the communities in the eastern portion of the county, including Elsmore and Savonburg to the south and Bayard and Mildred to the north.
Moran is primarily an agriculture-based community that doubles as an employee base for larger employers located in nearby communities. Moran is also home of the Marmaton Valley Schools (USD 256), making it the education center for children throughout the eastern portion of the county.
Moran has consistently maintained a population of between 500 and 700 people for the past century. Unfortunately, Moran’s population is at a 100- year low of 526 and falling quickly, which presents a serious challenge to the community. Furthermore, the realization that Moran’s population has now fallen below that of both LaHarpe and Gas, making it the 5th largest town in Allen County, is cause for alarm to Moran residents.
There is no detailed statistical data available about Moran residents’ health. Anecdotally, and based on discussions with local medical providers, however, Moran appears to have similarly poor health indices to residents throughout the county. Obesity, smoking and lack of exercise all negatively impact the health of Moran’s residents. Moran has no fast food restaurants, but with many residents working in Iola where fast food is prominent the community is not immune to the effects of these food types.
Unlike the other cities in the eastern portion of Allen County, Moran is not without healthcare services. The Family Physicians of Iola also has a clinic located in Moran. One nurse clinician staffs the clinic in addition to weekly office hours kept by a physician from the Iola office. Allen County Hospital located in Iola (12 miles away) is the nearest available acute care facility.
Moran is also home to Moran Manor, a 47-bed Americare facility that has been a community anchor for at least three decades. Moran Manor has consistently received high marks for its level of care, and the facility attracts residents not only from Moran and the east side of the county, but also from Iola and beyond.
PARKS AND RECREATION
Moran has an attractive and well-maintained city park. Playground equipment, baseball fields, tennis courts and picnic shelters are located in the park, providing a variety of options for residents regardless of age. There is also playground equipment located at Marmaton Valley Elementary School, plus the football field and track at Marmaton Valley High School. Moran is also fortunate to have a nine-hole public golf course, Sunny Meadows, which provides another recreation option for Moran area residents.
Sidewalk infrastructure in Moran is relatively limited; many of the sidewalks that exist are in fair to poor condition and pose hazards to walkers. This forces many residents to walk in the street, which increases their likelihood of injury or accident.
And while libraries are not typically classified with Parks and Recreation, Moran is fortunate to be served by a well-stocked public library located downtown that serves as a hub for young and old alike. This is complemented on Cedar Street by one of the newest and nicest senior citizen centers in Allen County, which provides a modern and spacious facility for seniors and other residents and visitors to congregate.
Moran has 265 housing units in 2008, a reduction of 7 housing units since the 2000 census. While some new homes have been built in recent years, the majority of the housing stock in the town is 50+ years old. Housing values have remained relatively steady in Moran, with homes vacated by older residents being replaced in some cases by new families, but the community still has a 13.2% vacancy rate in 2008, according to ESRI. And finally, Moran is dominated by owner-occupied homes, with only 15.1% of the housing units in Moran being rented.
Marmaton Village provides housing specifically to senior citizens and residents with disabilities. This complex includes 24 one-bedroom, income-restricted apartments. Marmaton Village has undertaken an aggressive modernization program to enhance the facility, and it currently has units available for rent.
BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY
As Eastern Allen County’s commercial center Moran has the third largest business base in the county after Iola and Humboldt. Moran still has a bank, grocery store, funeral home, a large grain elevator, convenience store and two family restaurants, among other businesses, giving the community a core of basic services they can access without driving to another town.
There are 295 employed residents of Moran 16 years of age or older. The majority of these work in services, with 25% of residents traveling 10 – 19 minutes to work. Evidence suggests that many Moran residents are employed in Iola, with others traveling to work in Fort Scott: ESRI data show that 21% of Moran residents drive 25 – 34 minutes to work.
Moran is faced with double trouble: a population that is falling rapidly, and one of the highest median ages in the county. In light of these forces it is imperative that Moran take steps to attract new residents, particularly young families, if it is to survive. This will require economic incentives to construct new homes which provide the amenities that buyers want, and a concerted effort to market Moran as a lower-cost, yet still attractive, alternative to more expensive communities.
Moran also has managed to maintain its key commercial establishments, but in an era of belt-tightening and business consolidations it will become increasingly difficult for Moran to hold on IF local residents do not support their local establishments. Volume of customers is critically important in any business, and it will only be through a determined “shop local” effort that Moran will be able to keep some of its current businesses if the town’s population continues to drop.
Marmaton Valley Schools are the pride of the Moran community, and with good reason. USD 256 students consistently outperform their peers on standardized tests, and the strong sense of community that comes with a smaller school district is attractive to many parents. The presence of good schools is consistently ranked as a top reason parents give for choosing one community over another. This asset gives Moran a tremendous tool to use in actively recruiting new residents, particularly families, in an effort to reverse its downward population trends.
On the school funding side, USD 256 has attracted a large number of students from USD 257, which has been critical to keeping its per pupil funding relatively stable as the county loses population. This phenomenon, though negative for USD 257, is an opportunity that holds continued promise for USD 256.
Geography also presents opportunities for Moran. The community’s location at the intersection of two US highways gives the community a logistical and transportation advantage, whether for residents that want to work in Iola but live in Moran or for potential employers that rely on transportation to move goods or materials. Moran is also one of the few communities left in Allen County that has an active railroad (the Union Pacific), which could provide another logistical advantage the town can use in business recruitment.