Marquette residents offer ideas at community visioning session

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Around 15 people shared their ideas for a dream Marquette at a visioning session held Monday night at the community center. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

Around 15 people shared their ideas for a dream Marquette at a visioning session held Monday night at the community center.

Marquette Business and Tourism Director Katrina Moyna led the session, which focused on concepts that can be enacted to improve tourism and business and economic development in the community, especially downtown.

One common theme that popped up during the discussion was the desire for more festivals and community events.

Dave Schneider suggested revitalizing Marquette’s Fourth of July celebration by holding a street dance and utilizing the ball diamond for tournaments.

“You could do things like that to make it fun to come back to,” he said.

Dave’s wife, Meaghan, recommended going with a retro or old-fashioned theme for the Fourth of July.

“People want more family and wholesome things,” she said.

Other activities, like a chili cook-off or Northeast Iowa barbecue event were also suggested.

“The first Country on the River was here,” Dave said. “That shows we can bring people here and have events like that.”

The Schneiders also said a community picnic would be nice to bring people together.

“Use what we have,” Meaghan said, noting that an event like that would be the perfect way to break in the new riverfront shelter built last fall.

Coordinating new events with busy flea market or fall weekends was suggested as well, drawing in visitors already in the area along with new ones.

“We need more events to bring tourists,” councilwoman Cindy Halvorson said, noting that, of the roughly 17 businesses in Marquette, 10 rely on tourism. “We need to bring people downtown.”

Many visioning session attendees also indicated an interest in bringing more businesses to Marquette, particularly a small cafe or coffee shop with open air seating. A drive-in selling ice cream or other foods and a Pete’s Hamburgers-like stand were mentioned as well.

If people come off the river and smell good food cooking, that could really be a draw, said mayor Norma Mason.

Councilwoman Rinda Ferguson said it couldn’t hurt to create more uniformity, suggesting brick could be added to buildings downtown to tie them together.

Tracy Melver said cleaning up some properties could make the community more attractive, and thus attract businesses.

“It would be nice to see people invest in buildings and put condos above them,” he said, noting that businesses could set up shop below.

“We have to look at Marquette for what it is,” Dave Schneider said, noting that drawing businesses is tough when the busy season lasts for only half the year. “We need to make Marquette a destination for young people to come back to. That’s the ultimate goal.”

He suggested offering business owners funds to help with property facelifts. City manager Dean Hilgerson said the city also recently developed an incentive package to aid prospective business owners.

Capitalizing on and utilizing nature also came up frequently throughout the meeting, as attendees expressed interest in establishing a campground at the Driftless Area Wetlands Centre and creating hiking and biking trails.

“A lot of people in Marquette walk, so that would give them more to do,” said Diane Dohse.

“People want the ability to bike,” added Ferguson. “When young people go to college, they don’t drive. They bike there. We need to accommodate those things.”

Adding more flower pots downtown was also suggested. Dohse said she’d like to see more gardens.

“There are areas in town to put nature gardens,” she said, mentioning that they don’t have to be large, just something to add color and attract wildlife.

Marlene Melver suggested creating a butterfly garden in the park could be a good addition.

Halvorson said the area’s natural beauty is already a large draw.

“People say they love it here,” she said, referencing those who visit Eagles Landing Winery. “They say it’s a quaint, little river town.”

Some other ideas brought up included creating a splash pad and constructing an area in the park for a fountain and seating.

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