Enter Garden City from the south, and there's much to see.
From the beautiful Lee Richardson Zoo property on the east side to well manicured ball fields across the way, travelers are treated to attractive scenery. New landscaping made the road into downtown Garden City even nicer.
But that's after crossing the bridge. Before that point, motorists can't help but notice a dilapidated fence, broken-down vehicles, pallets strewn about and other messes just before they reach the city.
Head into Garden City from the east on U.S. Highway 50 and it's the same story.
Junk cars, abandoned homes, weeds, the lingering nuisance of plastic bags and other trash clinging to fences mar the landscape.
And then there's the long-damaged sign pointing the way to ConAgra — an ugly, unwanted reminder of the fire a decade ago that closed the facility and erased nearly 2,300 jobs, a situation worsened by a subsequent lack of activity at the plant.
First impressions matter, and entryways with such ugliness send a message to newcomers that the community doesn't care.
Of course, plenty of people here do care. Credit the city's Neighborhood Improvement Project, which enlists people to pick up trash and aid in other cleanup efforts, for making progress.
As part of such initiatives, stepped-up efforts to improve the look of well-traveled roads into Garden City also are in order.
During his State of the City address in September, Garden City Mayor J.R. Behan listed "Enhance Community Entryways" as one city priority, with a goal of establishing guidelines that project a positive image of the community, with an identifiable community brand at every road into town.
Strides toward that goal included the city signing off on funding assistance for an Eagle Scout project by Garden City resident Ryan Steel to further improve the south entryway with a new bronze sculpture of a windmill, cattle and train highlighting Finney County's beef and farming industry.
Yet such welcome progress would be diminished if the eyesores aren't eliminated.
Problems of rundown buildings, junk vehicles and other eyesores plague many parts of the county outside Garden City. Residents and county officials have been working on ways to improve a system of enforcement that has come up short.
At their meeting Monday, county commissioners made positive steps by eliminating the need for written complaint to pursue nuisances, and reducing time for a property owner to respond to a violation notice from 30 to 10 days.
As for addressing specific issues along the town's entryways, not all fixes have to be monumental.
Take the damaged ConAgra sign — can't officials simply ask that it be repaired? And if there's no response, just remove it?
Even such small victories would make a difference.
And whether the messes are located within city limits or on county turf shouldn't matter. The city and county have shown they can work together to get things done.
They did as much recently with a public-private partnership with Bonanza BioEnergy that would help the ethanol company expand, and allow the city and county to acquire property key in industrial growth.
As we await new developments there, some energy must be devoted to cleaning up that corridor. While a road dotted with industry won't necessarily be the most aesthetically pleasing, it at least should be presentable.
It's time for progress on that path and with other local entryways in need of attention.
With so much talk about economic development, a county interested in growth must polish what it already has to be even more appealing to new business and industry.
After all, there's only one first impression. This community should make the most of each and every one.
E-mail Editor-publisher Dena Sattler at email@example.com.