Marquette’s bench evacuation route opens

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McGregor Hook and Ladder firemen Dan Bickel and Tyler Thornton, Mar-Mac EMS President Mike Gilman, fire chief Jerry Thornton, Marquette council members Cindy Halvorson and John Ries, Clayton County Emergency Management Director Sarah Moser and Marquette City Clerk Bonnie Basemann were among those who officially opened Marquette’s bench evacuation route for use July 5. (Photos by Audrey Posten)

Nearly a mile long, the graveled route stretches from the end of Walnut Street, in Marquette, to Eagle Drive, in McGregor. The public is also welcome to use it for hiking and biking, but no motorized recreational vehicles will be allowed.

The Mar-Mac rescue squad was one of the first vehicles to maneuver the evacuation route.

The city of Marquette hopes a padlocked chain and signage will help discourage people from abusing the evacuation route with motorized recreational vehicles.

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

While no one living on the Marquette bench hopes there will be an emergent need to escape their neighborhood, it’s reassuring to know a safe route will now be available.

In the planning stages for nearly two years, and under construction since last fall, the Marquette bench evacuation route officially opened for use last week. City officials, as well as representatives from McGregor Hook and Ladder and the Mar-Mac Rescue Squad, traversed the nearly mile-long, gravel route on July 5, to mark the occasion.

Delta 3 Engineering, of Platteville, Wis., engineered the project, while Bacon Concrete, of Postville, completed the route at a cost of $218,815.

“It’s great for the people on the bench in case of an emergency,” remarked long-time resident and council member Eleanor Soulli. “Things happen; you never know. I think every place should have a way in and a way out.”

Stretching from the end of Walnut Street, in Marquette, to Eagle Drive, in McGregor, the evacuation route will offer a means of escape if the bench’s only entrance/exit, near the Casino Queen, is blocked.

City council members have pushed for an evacuation route for several years, citing concerns over railroad cargo, as well as the length of the trains that cross the tracks at that location.

“With the train situation and flooding, people on the bench would really be left out in left field,” said fire chief Jerry Thornton.

As long as it’s regularly maintained, he’s confident the route will be an asset.

“They did a nice job on where they put it,” he noted.

Without this route, Thornton said fire department trucks or other rescue vehicles would not be able to access the bench in emergency situations.

“We would’ve had to take Gators in,” he said.

Clayton County Emergency Management Director Sarah Moser said the route will not only be helpful for the fire department, but the rescue squad as well. 

“Especially if someone has a medical condition, you need to get EMTs to them as fast as possible,” she said.

To be even more prepared, Moser encourages all residents to sign up for the Alert Iowa notification system, in which Clayton County participates. In the event of an emergency or severe weather, an alert will be sent to the phone number and/or email address you provide. 

Moser said the alerts cover everything from flooding to hazardous material warnings, and can be sent to specific geographic areas, like the bench. People can also note if they have special needs, such as limited mobility, oxygen dependence or hearing impairment—details that could aid emergency responders.

Learn more about Alert Iowa on the Iowa Homeland Security website.

While created for emergency situations, the evacuation route can also be used for hiking and biking throughout the year. However, to keep the route in good condition, no motorized recreational vehicles will be allowed (unless there’s an emergency, of course). The city hopes a padlocked chain and signage will help discourage people from abusing it.

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